Calendar alert: Employees may have up to three years to sue for FMLA violations

Most federal employment discrimination laws require workers to file an EEOC or state complaint relatively soon after the alleged discrimination occurs. That’s one reason employers breathe a sigh of relief after the passage of 300 days, the standard deadline.

But before you celebrate, remember that other worker protection laws such as the FMLA give employees far longer to mull over whether they should file a federal lawsuit.

Recent case: Angel suffered a workplace injury and underwent several back surgeries. Before he was able to return to work, Angel’s employer terminated him.

More than two years later, Angel filed a federal FMLA claim, alleging he had been terminated for taking FMLA leave when he had surgery.

The court first considered how long is too late for a worker to file an FMLA lawsuit. It noted that for run-of-the-mill violations, the limit is two years. However, for so-called willful violations, employees have three years. They don’t have to file an EEOC or any other discrimination complaint first.

FMLA Compliance D

Fortunately for Angel’s former employer, the court concluded that this was not a willful case. It dismissed Angel’s lawsuit because he had waited more than two years to sue. (Melendez v. Cablevision, SD NY, 2018)

Final note: Generally, willful FMLA violations are those where it is clear the employer made little or no effort to learn what the FMLA requires or, knowing what the law requires, refused to comply. If a worker can show such disregard, he has up to three years to sue.