Appellant, a former employee of respondent employer, challenged an order from the Superior Court of Solano County (California), which granted the employer’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissed the employee’s complaint alleging claims of sexual harassment and discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, and retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq., and other causes of action.

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Overview

The employment application stated that any claim or lawsuit had to be filed within six months of an employment action and that the employee waived any statute of limitations to the contrary. The court held that the shortened limitation period violated the public policy of eliminating discriminatory practices as expressed in Gov. Code, § 12920, and was unenforceable. Although a contractually shortened limitation period could be found reasonable if a plaintiff had a sufficient opportunity to investigate and file an action, such cases generally involved straightforward commercial contracts and unambiguous breaches or accrual of rights under those contracts. Six months did not provide sufficient time for the effective pursuit of the judicial remedy in a FEHA case because the statutory limitation period could be as long as three years, and necessarily more than two because of the administrative investigation and enforcement process set forth in Gov. Code, §§ 12930, 12960, 12965, subd. (b). A six-month period was unreasonable because it would preclude meaningful agency participation and would have anomalous results, causing different limitation periods to apply to different FEHA claims.

Outcome

The court reversed the order.