If an employee is being harassed or discriminated against in the workplace, he has one year to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Employees and employers alike sometimes question when the one year statute of limitations starts to run. On August 29, 2017, the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District held that an employee has one year from his last day of employment to timely file a complaint with the DFEH. Aviles-Rodriguez v. Los Angeles Community College District, No. B278863, 2017 WL 3712199 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 29, 2017).
Appellant Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez, a Hispanic male of Mexican heritage, worked as a professor in the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD). He was a probationary employee with a two year contract. Near the end of probationary employees’ contracts, LACCD’s practice is to decide whether or not to tenure or terminate those professors. Those who do not receive tenure are let go at the end of their contract.
On November 21, 2013, the college’s tenure review committee voted to deny Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez tenure. The Board of Trustees then voted to deny his tenure on February 26, 2014. In response, Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez filed a grievance. Then, on March 5, 2014, Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez received written notice from the Board of Trustees that his tenure had been denied. In the meantime, Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez continued to grieve his case; however, the grievance committee denied his request for tenure on May 21, 2014. That May, Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez reached out to the DFEH to inquire about filing a racial discrimination claim against the district. On June 30, 2014, LACCD terminated Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez. The DFEH informed him that he had one year from his date of termination on June 30, 2014, to file a claim. Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez filed a claim with the DFEH on June 29, 2015. Shortly thereafter, he filed suit against LACCD.
LACCD demurred to Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez’s Second Amended Complaint on the grounds that the action was barred by the statute of limitations. LACCD argued that Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez only had one year from the time he knew that LACCD had denied him tenure to file his complaint with the DFEH. LACCD took the position that Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez had one year from November 21, 2013, when the tenure review committee voted to deny his tenure, to file a complaint with the DFEH. The trial court agreed with LACCD and gave Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez leave to file an amended complaint.
After Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez filed his Third Amended Complaint, LACCD again demurred. It again argued that Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez became aware of the tenure decision in November, and added that on November 25, 2013, a department chair instructed him not to question the decision. As a probationary employee, LACCD argued that Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez should have known on November 25, 2013, that he was going to be fired. LACCD further took the position that Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez only had one year from November 25, 2013 to file his DFEH complaint. The trial court agreed and sustained LACCD’s demurrer without leave to amend and dismissed the action.
On appeal, Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez contended that he had one year from his date of termination on June 30, 2014, to file his complaint with the DFEH. He reasoned that the one year statute of limitations period began from the last day of employment. The appellate court agreed, reiterating that the purpose of the Fair Employment and Housing Act is to safeguard the employee’s right to request, obtain, and keep employment without being subjected to discrimination. It also reasoned that while LACCD’s denial of Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez’s tenure may have been discriminatory, the ultimate harm he suffered was termination. Thus, the statute of limitations began to run on Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez’s last day of employment.
If you feel that you have been harassed or discriminated against in the workplace, please feel free to call Hunter Pyle Law for a free consultation at (510)-444-4400 or email@example.com.