In March 2014, a California Court of Appeal considered in Ellis v. Security Associates whether an employer can contractually shorten the time period that an employee has to bring an action under FEHA (in this case from the statutory one-year period to six months). The California court held it could not.
Ashley Ellis signed an employment application in September 2009. The application stated that, by signing the application, the individual was agreeing that any employment-related claim must be brought within six months and waived other statutes of limitations. In this case, the employee sued her former employer and supervisor for sexual discrimination and retaliation, among other claims, eleven months after her alleged termination. The trial court dismissed the case based on the six-month contractual limitation in Ellis’ employment application.
On review the California Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the shortened limitation period was a violation of public policy and a deprivation of Ellis’ statutory rights, and refused to enforce the contractual period, permitting the former employee to bring claims within the statutory periods.
Companies with California workers should review employment applications, contracts, offer letters and policies to ensure that any shortened limitation periods are consistent with the law.