After you have encountered discrimination in the workplace and decided, in consultation with an experienced New York employment discrimination lawyer, that the best course of action is suing, one of the essential elements of your case is the timing of your complaint. Filing too late could leave your lawsuit vulnerable to a defense motion to dismiss, which would mean never getting your day in court. A knowledgeable discrimination lawyer can be crucial in ensuring that this procedural requirement doesn’t trip you up in your pursuit of justice.
New York State law will soon give workers here even more time to bring a discrimination or retaliation lawsuit under the New York State Human Rights Law. New York State recently changed the statute of limitations (in other words, the deadline) for filing NYSHRL claims. Before the change, workers had only one year. Once the law goes into effect next month (Feb. 15, 2024), that period will move from one year to three years.
This expansion brings New York State in line with New York City as the city had already set its statute of limitations for discrimination claims under its Human Rights Law at three years.
Other Deadlines to Remember
Even as New York State and New York City have both aligned with three-year limitations periods, there are other deadlines that you still need to keep in mind. If you want to pursue a federal claim (such as race/gender/ethnicity/etc. discrimination under Title VII, age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or disability discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act), you have much less time. Before you head to court, you first must file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If the discrimination you endured is also covered by state or local anti-discrimination laws like the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL, you must file with the EEOC within 300 days. If not, you have only 180 days. (Generally, most New Yorkers are going to have 300 days.)
If your NYSHRL and/or NYCHRL case gives you three years to file, this extra time can be immensely beneficial to your cause. It gives you extra time to find the right discrimination attorney to represent you, to document with specificity all of the instances when you were a target for discrimination (including the dates, locations, and others involved in those instances,) to correspond with coworkers to find out if they witnessed the discrimination you encountered or were similarly discriminated against, and obtain statements from those people who witnessed the misconduct against you or were the targets of similar illegal employment practices.
How the Law Treats Long-Term Discrimination
The statute of limitations for your New York discrimination case begins to run on the date that the discriminatory action occurred. For many workers who are harmed by illegal discrimination, those illegal practices occur over many years. In some situations, workers encountering years-long discrimination may be entitled to seek relief for some of the more recent acts but be barred from suing based on others.
For example, if Jane Doe sues for discrimination on Feb. 28, 2024, and alleges discrimination that occurred from 2019 – 2023, she may not be entitled to recovery for the discrimination that happened before Feb. 28, 2021. It is often still worthwhile to amass evidence of those older instances of discrimination, however. While you may not be entitled to a judgment and compensation based on those older instances, you may be entitled to present evidence of those older occurrences and use that proof to strengthen your case regarding the more recent instances of discrimination.
In other cases, though, you may be entitled to pursue a case based on all the discrimination you endured, even events that happened more than three years in the past. New York discrimination law recognizes something called the “continuing violation doctrine.” As New York courts have explained, a “court can go beyond the three-year period… if the conduct is of a continuous nature and at least one discriminatory act falls within the statute of limitations.” A continuing violation occurs when “there is proof of specific ongoing discriminatory policies or practices, or where specific and related instances of discrimination are permitted by the employer to continue unremedied for so long as to amount to a discriminatory policy or practice.”
Getting an appropriate resolution to your employment discrimination case is a multi-faceted task, but it should start with retaining a powerful and effective legal representative you can trust. The knowledgeable New York employment discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to help you in your pursuit of justice. You can contact us online or by calling (833) 529-3476 to set up a free and confidential consultation. No one should have to endure discrimination at work. If you have, reach out today to find out how we can help you hold to account those responsible.