Is there a deadline to file a sexual harassment claim? The short answer is, yes. Claims for workplace sexual harassment are subject to a statute of limitations, just like practically every other claim that an employee can bring against an employer.

What Is the Point of Having Time Deadlines?

These time deadlines are commonly referred to as statutes of limitation. As explained by the California Supreme Court decades ago, “the primary purpose of statutes of limitation is to prevent the assertion of stale claims by plaintiffs who have failed to file their action until evidence is no longer fresh and witnesses are no longer available.” Addison v. State of California (1978) 21 Cal.3d 313, 317.

The Court explained that “the statutes, accordingly, serve a distinct public purpose, preventing the assertion of demands which, through the unexcused lapse of time, have been rendered difficult or impossible to defend.” Addison v. State of California (1978) 21 Cal.3d 313, 317.

What is the Deadline for Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims?

If an employee experiences sexual harassment in the workplace, he or she may have the right to bring several claims against several different persons or entities under several bodies of law. The applicable time deadline depends on whom the employee chooses to sue and for what.

For example, if workplace sexual harassment involves physical touching or the apprehension thereof, the employee may very well have the right to sue the individual harasser for assault and battery. The time deadline for bringing an assault and battery claim in California is two years. Code of Civil Procedure §335.1.

If the victim of sexual harassment chooses to file a claim for sexual harassment under California law (i.e. the Fair Employment and Housing Act), then the employee must commence a civil action under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) “within one year from the date of that notice.” Cal. Gov. Code §12965(c)(1)(C).

To obtain a right to sue (, the victim of sexual harassment must first exhaust his or her administrative remedies by filing an administrative complaint within three years of the date the alleged unlawful practice occurred, or within 90 days thereafter if the employee first discovered the facts of the unlawful practice after expiration of the three-year period. Cal. Gov. Code §12960(e)(5) and (6).

Thus, in effect, there are two separate time deadlines that a plaintiff must comply with to bring a claim under the FEHA.

If the victim of sexual harassment chooses to file a claim for sexual harassment under federal law (i.e. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), then the employee must exhaust his or her administrative remedies by filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) within 180 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). The plaintiff must file suit within 90 days after the EEOC gives its right-to-sue notice.

These, of course, are only some of the most common claims that may be brought into workplace sexual harassment situations, but they are certainly not the only ones. Depending on the facts and circumstances of each situation, there may be several additional other claims which can be alleged, each of which will carry its own distinct statute of limitations.

Where to Get Advice

A victim of sexual harassment would do well to consult with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer to find out what claims he or she may have and what deadlines apply to those claims.

Contact Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. for advice. Our testimonials show why employees who are looking for advice call us for help. Contact us to learn more and to get a complimentary consultation.