The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed a former employee’s unlawful termination claim because she brought the action after the two-year statute of limitations had expired and her discharge was not deemed part of a continuing violation by the employer. Marisol Kuilan applied for a kitchen position with Sodexo Incorporated on August 15, 2008. In connection with her application, she was asked to disclose whether she had been convicted of a felony in the past seven years to which she responded “No.” Twelve years prior, Kuilan had pled guilty to five felony counts.
On August 18, 2008, Sodexo hired Kuilan. However, on August 29, 2008, Sodexo’s General Manager informed Kuilan that she falsified information on her application, and she was terminated. Although Sodexo briefly reinstated Kuilan, it terminated her again in September 2008.
After receiving a right to sue notice from the EEOC, Kuilan sued for national origin discrimination under Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) on August 5, 2011. Sodexo and its co-defendants filed a motion to dismiss based, in part, on Kuilan’s failure to file her LAD discrimination claim within the two-year statute of limitations.
The District Court granted the motion to dismiss Kuilan’s LAD discrimination claim on statute of limitations grounds. Although Kuilan filed her LAD claim more than two years after her termination, she argued that the discharge was part of a continuing violation by Sodexo that extended the limitations period. Specifically, Kuilan contended that her termination constituted an “ongoing and continual harm to her current and future prospects of employment” because Sodexo communicated with prospective employers that she was “discharged for falsifying her employment application.”
Despite the creativity of Kuilan’s argument, the Court declined to extend the continuing violations doctrine. The Court held that applying the doctrine would extend the statute of limitations indefinitely, because the limitations period would renew whenever Sodexo communicated the reason for Kuilan’s termination to prospective employers.
The Kuilan decision is good news for employers defending against discrimination claims. The decision makes clear that the repercussions of a termination cannot be used to indefinitely extend the period within which a former employee can bring suit against a company. Employers should be mindful of limitations periods and work with internal and external counsel to assert the statute of limitations defense where applicable.