How long do I have to bring my claim of discrimination?
In most areas of law an injured person has one to two years to bring their lawsuit before it is barred by the statute of limitations. In contract law, personal injury, or other areas the time limit on bringing a lawsuit can range from one year to five. However, in the area of employment discrimination the statute of limitations is unusually short. For federal cases an employee has 180 days to file their suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and even on a state level, in Pennsylvania, an employee must bring their suit within 180 days to comply with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. This short statute of limitations creates multiple hurdles for an employee attempting to bring a discrimination suit.
When has discrimination occurred?
The most difficult task for a victim of discrimination is pinpointing when the discrimination occurred. The victim may be subjected to a pattern of discriminatory conduct that does not appear discriminatory at first. Oftentimes a person may not realize there has been discrimination until years later. For example, a person may continuously be passed over for a job position, but they may not learn that they were passed over because of their race or religion until months or years after the conduct occurred. This type of uncertainty can hinder the ability of someone to bring their case if they did not learn about the discrimination until long after it occurred.
Fear of retaliation
Another factor that hinders victims of discrimination is the fear of retaliation. The victim may know that they are being discriminated against, but they choose not to report it or take action because they want to keep their job and they fear being fired for the reporting. The anti-discrimination laws protect against this form of retaliation, but such protection is often inadequate. An employee may need to keep their job, so they wait until they have been separated from the old job before bringing a complaint with the EEOC. Oftentimes the 180-day window has passed and they can no longer bring their claim. This 180 day period is woefully inadequate to protect against the realities of discrimination in the workplace.
What can a victim of discrimination do?
If you believe that you have been discriminated against you can always discreetly contact an employment attorney who can direct you on how to proceed. You will often need to enter a complaint with the EEOC as soon as possible, and even though the employer is informed and involved in the process, much of the information is kept confidential. Also, the employer will be subject to additional penalties if she does choose to retaliate against you. Given the short statute of limitations in these cases, prompt and immediate action is vital to a case, so feel free to contact Kraemer, Manes and Associates for a short consultation on how to proceed with your case.