The Statute of Limitations on Sexual Harassment Claim
A statute of limitations is the amount of time you have to take legal action (i.e., to file a complaint or lawsuit) against someone else. The legal "clock" usually begins ticking on the first day of the first incident of sexual harassment, but in some states, the statute of limitations may begin on the last incident.
The amount of time you have to file a complaint or lawsuit depends on three things:
- If you work for a government agency
- If you do not work for the federal government, and you want to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- If you plan to file a civil lawsuit, your individual state's laws. In most states, sexual harassment claims are considered "tort" claims, and subject to the same statute of limitations as personal injury law (i.e., accidents.)
If you work for the federal government you must first file an administrative complaint before you can file a civil lawsuit. If you work for a public or private company (basically anyone but a government agency) you do not have to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before filing a lawsuit. However, if you opt to have the EEOC handling your complaint the statute of limitations is much shorter than most state laws allow for filing a civil lawsuit.
New Jersey sexual harassment attorney, Leonard Hill, recommends that you always file a formal complaint with your employer before attempting to file a lawsuit. "An employer cannot be held liable for sexual harassment or discrimination if they did not know about it. Filing a formal report serves as proof that they did."