What is the statute of limitations to sue an employer in Texas? Fort Worth employment attorney explains
In Texas an employment lawsuit may arise under a combination of federal, state and local laws. This is true whether the lawsuit is for wrongful discharge, pay or benefits issues, discrimination, FMLA, or other employment claims. All forms of employment claims carry a limitations period. The statute of limitations is not universal for each of these claims. Technical procedural rules may determine the calculation of the statute of limitations to a particular employment claim. The best thing to do if you believe you have an employment claim is to contact Texas employment lawyers. Today’s post will discuss some of the limitations periods for common employment claims.
Wage/Pay/Compensation Claims in Texas
For claims involving minimum wage violations or unpaid overtime pay, the Fair Labor Standards Act and Texas Payday Law sets the limitations period at two years. That period can extend to three years if the violation of minimum wage or overtime duties is intentional. For compensation claims not based on minimum wage or overtime violations a lawsuit can arise for breach of contract and the statute of limitations is four years.
Instead of filing a lawsuit to recover unpaid wages an employee can file an administrative complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission. This complaint must be filed within 180 days of the date the wages should have been paid.
Employee Benefits Claims in Dallas-Fort Worth
Claims under employee benefit plans often require the employee to perform certain steps before a lawsuit. For employee benefit plans governed by ERISA the employee generally must file a written claim with the plan administrator and give the administrator an opportunity to satisfy the claim before filings a lawsuit. If the administrator denies the claim then the employee must appeal within a certain period. After denying the appeal then the employee may file suit. The exception to this requirement is where the filing of a claim would be fruitless.
Simultaneously a limitations period is separately running to file suit in court for the ERISA claim. (In the event the appeal is unresolved before the limitations period will expire, the employee can file suit and the suit is put on hold until the appeal is decided.) The limitations period varies by type of claim. Plan provisions, state law, or ERISA may determine the limitations period. The limitations period may extend for as much as six years after the employee discovers the possible claim.
Some benefit plans are non-ERISA plans and different laws and plan provisions govern potential lawsuits for plan benefits. It is necessary to review the plan terms and applicable laws to determine the specific limitations period for a given plan.
Family Medical Leave Act Claims
Claims under FMLA for interference, denial of benefits and retaliation follow the same rules as wage claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act which is two years unless the violation was willful, which extends the limitations period to three years.
Occupational Health and Safety Act Claims in Texas
An employee is permitted to file a complaint with OSHA and request an investigation if the employee believes workplace conditions violates OSHA regulations or has created an imminent danger to employees. If the employer retaliates against the employee for filing the complaint then the employee has a remedy for that retaliation by filing a second complaint with OSHA for the retaliation. This second complaint must be filed within thirty days of the retaliatory conduct. There is no right to a private lawsuit under OSHA so that complaint filed with OSHA is extremely important.
National Labor Relations Act Claims in Texas
Claims involving union activity or the right to work together to improve workplace conditions are covered by the National Labor Relations Act. To pursue a claim for an unfair labor practice under the NLRA the employee must either file a charge (complaint) with the National Labor Relations Board or file suit in federal court within six months.
Employment Discrimination Claims in Fort Worth or Dallas
Claims related to employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age (over forty), religion, disability and national origin generally follow a two step process before filing a lawsuit. For most employment discrimination claims an employee must file a charge of discrimination before any lawsuit. This charge must go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division. A charge filed with the EEOC must be on file no later than 300 days after the discriminatory events occurred or with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division within 180 days.
Filing a charge with the EEOC will open the door to a federal lawsuit and a charge filed with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division will open the door to a Texas court lawsuit. After filing the charge the agency will investigate and in most cases will issue a right to sue letter.
The employee must file suit within 90 days of an EEOC right to sue letter or 60 days of a TWC letter. (Different processes and timelines exist for federal employees who have alternative EEO office procedures.) Claims for sex-based pay discrimination do not require a charge if the claim is under the Equal Pay Act. If the claim will also be under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act then you must file a charge.
In addition to the claims process, there is a two year limitations period for the lawsuit. If the limitations period will run faster than the investigation then the employee may file the lawsuit. It will pause the lawsuit until the right to sue letter is issued. The limitations period extends to three years under Equal Pay Act claims for willful violations.
Whistleblower Claims in Texas
Employees may gain protections for whistleblowing both internally or externally under a variety of federal, state, or local laws. These protections often require employees to file claims for retaliation within a short period of time. Often the employee must file a complaint within months. Acting quickly to identify where to complain and how to complain is important.
Sabine Pilot Claims in DFW
In Texas we do not have the broad realm of common law or statutory wrongful discharge claims. The one common law wrongful discharge claim we have is known as a Sabine Pilot claim. A Sabine Pilot claim asserts the employer fired the employee for refusing to perform illegal acts for the employer. The statute of limitations for a Sabine Pilot claim is two years.
Other Texas Law Claims
Workplace situations can create other types of claims under Texas law with varied limitations periods. Defamation claims can arise from prior or current employers. These claims have a one year statute of limitations. Claims brought as a breach of contract have a long four year statute of limitations. Most other claims that might arise have a two year statute of limitations.