What Is the Statute Of Limitations on Discrimination?

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  • Written By: Keith Koons
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 June 2014
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Determining the statute of limitations on discrimination lawsuits is a little bit more difficult to determine than other types of civil actions. To file a discrimination suit, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) must be notified in writing within 180 days from the date that the discrimination was said to occur. When the charge also violates a state or local law, however, the statute of limitations is extended to 300 days. From that point, the EEOC will investigate the claim during a discovery period to determine if there is cause to file a lawsuit, and if there is enough proof available, it will also attempt to negotiate a settlement or proceed to court for a trial. If the EEOC does not find enough proof to file a discrimination suit, a “right to sue” notice will be issued that gives the claimant 90 additional days to file a lawsuit in state or federal court.

Since there are so many variables pertaining to the statute of limitations on discrimination, it is in the claimant’s best interests to file as quickly as possible when a violation of civil law is expected. This initial discovery process does not require legal representation from an outside source, but many claimants feel more comfortable having an attorney speak on their behalf to the EEOC. In some regions, it is also possible to file certain discrimination lawsuits in federal court without first contacting the EEOC with the previously mentioned state time limits in place.


Many private and public sector businesses also have an internal process that needs to be followed, and naturally, each of them defines its own statute of limitations on discrimination. While this process is not mandatory to file with the EEOC, it allows corporations the chance to identify and correct the potential problems before the situation is amplified. State and federal employees are required by law to file an internal grievance before contacting the EEOC, but they are also permitted to hire an attorney to represent them throughout the process. The internal statute of limitations on discrimination within these types of agencies also varies, but it is often 30 days from the time of the infraction.

In many cases, the statute of limitations on discrimination is difficult to determine, since a claimant may point out a chain of events that occurred over several months or even years. For example, if an employee faces several minor instances of discrimination, it may not be enough to file an individual claim, but if a more serious form of discrimination later occurs, those initial incidents should be mentioned in writing. The reasoning behind this logic is that anything excluded on the EEOC claim form is not admissible in court, regardless of whether it fits within the statute of limitations on discrimination or not.


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