Time Limits For Employment Civil Rights Claims

In an earlier post I discussed some of the process that is necessary to pursue an employment discrimination claim under federal or state civil rights laws.  That administrative process is a mandatory precursor to any employment claim brought for many types of employment discrimination claims.  For example, using two of the most common types of claims, you cannot sue your employer for race or sex discrimination unless you first go through the administrative process with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, or a local civil rights commission at the county or city level.

That process begins with the filing of an administrative complaint.  Under either federal or state law, that administrative complaint must be filed within 300 days of the discriminatory conduct.  That 300-day deadline under state and federal law is not a joke and is strictly enforced by the courts.  Any administrative complaint filed after 300 days will be considered untimely and dismissed by the local, state, or federal agency.  This is important because, as I mentioned, you have no right to sue for employment discrimination unless you first properly file an administrative complaint, which includes timely filing it within the 300-day deadline.  So no proper and timely administrative complaint = No employment discrimination lawsuit.

To illustrate, say that you were passed over for a promotion.  You believe that your employer failed to promote you at least in part because of your race, sex, age, religion, etc.  To enforce your rights, you have to file an administrative civil rights complaint within 300 days of learning that you didn’t get the promotion.  You’ll forfeit your legal rights and not be able to sue for discrimination if you wait until Day 301 or later to file the administrative complaint.

There is a very narrow exception to the 300-day rule that only applies when an employer has engaged in or allowed a continuing course of discriminatory conduct.  If you can prove such a continuing series of acts, and at least one of them falls within the 300-day window, then all of the earlier acts, even those older than 300 days, will be included and the entire complaint will be considered timely.  But as I said, that exception is narrow and difficult to meet and it is better to ensure that you file your administrative complaint before any of the discrimination is older than 300 days.

I can help you with any employment law or labor law questions that you might have.  Please feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation about employment law or labor law.


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