Employees who have been terminated don’t have long to file a complaint about alleged discrimination. Employers that suspect they might be sued can capitalize on the short statute of limitations by starting the clock as soon as possible.
Here’s how: Let employees know when they will lose their jobs—for example, when there’s an upcoming RIF—before their last day. Then document that date—it’s the one that will count when determining if they filed suit in time. The actual last day does not matter.
If you plan to help employees find other positions within the company, that’s fine. Just make sure they understand that if that doesn’t happen, they will be out of a job on a particular day.
Recent case: Etta Lowery worked for Allstate during a companywide RIF. She met with the HR office on March 7 and received a letter explaining that she was being riffed. HR also verbally explained to Lowery that she would not be eligible for another job with the company because her lasthad been poor.
Lowery left, but Allstate continued to pay her until Sept. 30. On Oct. 27, she filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Human Rights (TCHR), alleging Allstate had discriminated against her based on race and age.
Texans have just 180 days to file a complaint with the TCHR after the allegedly discriminatory act—in Lowery’s case, her discharge. Allstate started counting on March 7.
The court said Allstate was right—the clock starts when “an employee received unequivocal notice of his termination or when a reasonable employee would know that he will be terminated.” (Lowery v. Allstate, No. 08-10027, 5th Cir., 2008)
- Paper evaluations? Switch to software to limit subjectivity
- How to identify potential mentors among your staff leaders
- Do you have employees covered by USERRA? Warning: You could be personally liable for bias
- Your Best Defense: Prevention
- Track all discipline so you can show harsh punishment wasn't retaliation