California Wrongful Termination Statute of Limitations

Victims of wrongful termination may have the right to file a lawsuit against their employer under protections extended under Federal or California state law. Wrongful termination lawsuits must typically be filed within two or three years, depending on the basis for the claim.

Employers in California are prohibited from firing employees for certain reasons – such as their age, ethnicity, race, or exercising certain rights under the law. 

If you’ve been the victim of wrongful termination in California, you may have the right to file a lawsuit against your employer.

But you’ll have to move quickly. There are strict time limits that will apply to your wrongful termination case. Typically, the statute of limitations is between two and three years, depending on why you were fired.

If you miss the deadline that applies to your case, as set by the statute of limitations, you’ll forfeit the right to hold your employer accountable and recover compensation.

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    What is Wrongful Termination?

    Simply put, wrongful termination refers to job loss that is:

    • Discriminatory
    • Retaliatory, or a 
    • Violation of public policy

    California state and federal law provide that you cannot be laid off, fired, or discharged for any of these reasons.

    If you suspect that you have been the victim of wrongful termination in California, then it’s important to speak with an employment attorney near you immediately. You may have the right to file a claim, but there is a very short window of time in which you must act.

    Types of Wrongful Termination Claims and Filing Deadlines

    Ultimately, the amount of time you’ll have to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against an employer will depend on the reason you were let go from your job.

    Breach of Implied Contract

    While most employees in California have written contracts and are considered at-will workers, it’s not the case for everyone. Some employees have a verbal contract with their employer, which includes an agreement that termination will only be for cause.

    If you have an oral contract and are fired for no apparent reason, then you may have the right to file a wrongful termination claim. In these situations, California law gives you two years to take action.

    Violation of Public Policy

    You cannot be fired or terminated for refusing to violate public policy. For instance, your employer can’t ask you to break the law and then fire you for refusing to cooperate. You also cannot be fired for performing a responsibility that’s required by law.

    In cases involving violations of public policy, the statute of limitations for wrongful termination lawsuits is two years.

    Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA) Retaliation

    The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects you from discrimination and harassment on the basis of certain protected characteristics (e.g., race, disability, sexual orientation). The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against you – which includes letting you go from the company – for opposing policies or behavior that violates your FEHA protections. 

    If you file a wrongful termination claim based on FEHA retaliation, a three-year statute of limitations will apply.

    Whistleblower Retaliation

    You cannot be fired for blowing the whistle on your employer’s wage and hour violations and/or unlawful practices in the workplace. You have whistleblower protections under both California state law and federal law.

    If you file a claim under state law protections, the statute of limitations that applies to your case will run for three years

    If your employer retaliates by firing you for reporting securities fraud, you have protections that can be exercised under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. You’ll have 180 days to file an administrative complaint with the Department of Labor (DOL).

    If the DOL doesn’t take action once you’ve done this, then you reserve the right to file a lawsuit against your employer. You’ll have four years from the date you were let go to file your wrongful termination claim.

    Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act Violations

    The WARN Act requires many employers in California to provide at least 60 days’ notice to employees if there will be a mass layoff, major relocation, or plant closing. If you were let go in violation of the WARN Act, you may have the right to recover compensation through a wrongful termination lawsuit. A three-year statute of limitations will apply.

    Why Is There a Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Termination Lawsuits in California?

    When you’ve been the victim of wrongful termination, two or three years (or less) might not seem like a lot of time to file a lawsuit. However, there are some good reasons that the federal government and the state of California have statutes of limitations in place.

    The statute of limitations:

    • Encourages victims of wrongful termination to assert their legal rights promptly
    • Helps to ensure that the best possible evidence is available for litigation, and
    • Protects employers from facing legal action for conduct that happened a long time ago

    Ultimately, the less time that goes by between your wrongful termination and when you file a lawsuit, the better your chances of a positive outcome. The statute of limitations works to your benefit in this regard. You’re forced to take action on an important matter, which can help you hold your employer accountable and recover the compensation or equitable relief you deserve.

    Our California Wrongful Termination Lawyers Are Ready to Help You Fight Back

    If you’ve been wrongfully terminated from your job in California, you may not know what grounds you have to file a lawsuit. In order to preserve your right to legal action and secure the best outcome, it can be important to ask for help. 

    Don’t hesitate to contact the award-winning California wrongful termination lawyers at Cutter Law P.C. We serve clients across Northern California, with law offices conveniently located in Sacramento, Santa Rosa, and Oakland. Give our legal team a call to arrange a free consultation to discuss your wrongful termination case today.


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