While there are many reasons that victims of sexual harassment delay in bringing claims, such as fear, shame or embarassment, it is critical to comply with certain deadlines.
First, prior to filing a lawsuit for harassment or other employment discrimation against an employer under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the employee must file a complaint of discrimination with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). This complaint with the DFEH must be filed within one year of the discriminatory act and can be done online. DFEH Complaint It can be difficult to pin down the precise date in a hostile work environment case where the offending conduct took place over a lengthy period of time.
To avoid this time limit, for California FEHA claims, the continuning violations doctrine applies where the unlawful acts (1) are sufficiently similar in kind, (2) have occurred with reasonable frequency, and (3) have not required a degree of permanence.
After the timely filing of a complaint with the DFEH, the employee will have one additional year to file a lawsuit under the FEHA.
If the deadlines are not met, the employee will not be able to sue her employer for harassment or any other employment discrimination claim under the FEHA. For this reason, and because analysis of the statute of limitations is often complicated, requiring review by an experienced employment attorney or lawyer, it is important to consult with legal counsel as early as possible in serious harassment cases.