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Out of Time – Employment Laws Carry Statutes of Limitation

Posted on June 28, 2022


I know that many different laws have statutes of limitation. Could you review the different employment laws and their applicable statutes of limitations?   Also, for each can you tell me where an employee would go to file a complaint?


The statute of limitations ranges from six months to six years. The result of exceeding the statute of limitations is that the person’s claim can no longer be brought.

Except for the sexual harassment policy, the statute of limitations does not need to be included in any handbook or policy. In some cases, it may be included in a poster.

Discrimination claims are usually brought with either the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). A claim filed with one agency is considered to be filed with both, although the EEOC enforces federal law discrimination claims and the MCAD is responsible for enforcing state law claims. The only claims that are not within the jurisdiction of these agencies are those against small employers: generally fewer than 15 employees for the EEOC and fewer than six for the MCAD.

Employment claims are otherwise brought in the trial court (District Court or Superior Court) or with specific jurisdiction agencies such as the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA).

180-Day Statute of Limitations

  • Claims brought under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
  • Claims of discrimination brought under the EEOC, unless the state law provides for a longer statute of limitations. While employers in multiple jurisdictions should check local law, in the case of Massachusetts the statute of limitation is 300 days. (see below)

300-Day Statute of Limitations

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (discrimination and retaliation claims based on race, color, religion, sex/gender/pregnancy or national origin)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (disability discrimination or retaliation)
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (age discrimination or retaliation)
  • MA Fair Employment Law (all protected classes, sexual harassment, parental leave, retaliation)

Two-Year Statute of Limitations

  • Family Medical Leave Act (leave law – claims for interference and retaliation): to file a complaint in court.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (includes minimum wage, overtime and retaliation claims): to file if the court determines that the violation was not “willful.” (See below for willful violations)

Three-Year Statute of Limitations

  • Massachusetts Wage and Hour Law (includes non-payment of wages, misclassification, overtime, retaliation) Three years to file a claim with the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, a prerequisite to filing in court through a private right of action.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (includes minimum wage, overtime and retaliation claims): Three years to file in court for most violations if court determines that the violation was “willful.”
  • Family Medical Leave Act (claims of interference and retaliation): Three years to file a complaint in court if court determines the violation was “willful.”
  • Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave – (claims of interference and retaliation).Three years to file in Superior Court.
  • Massachusetts personnel records law – Three years to file in court for retaliation claim. Information contained in the personnel file must be retained for 3 years or the life of any pending litigation, and it is good practice to retain the files longer if there is the potential for a claim with a longer statute of limitations.
  • Defamation (slander and libel) – Three years to file in court.
  • Dodd-Frank Act (typically retaliation claims): either six years from the date when the retaliation occurred OR three years after the date “facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the employee,” but not more than ten years after the date of the violation to file a complaint in a court of competent jurisdiction.

Four-Year Statute of Limitation

  • Worker’s Compensation(injuries or illnesses arising out of and in the course of employment) individual has up to 4 years to file a complaint with the Department of Industrial Accidents based on the date the employee first became aware of the causal relationship between the employee’s injury or illness and employment.

Six-Year Employment-Law Statutes of Limitations

  • Breach of Contract: to file a complaint in court
  • Fraud: from discovery of fraud to file a complaint in court
  • As employers think about preparing for litigation it is important to practice good employee information retention policies to make sure that you have the necessary information for at least the timeframe required by the statute.