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Is there a statute of limitations for filing a Sexual Harassment Claim?

As a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you may be hesitant to come forward. Yes, there are laws in place that protect you from employer retaliation, but you may still have real fears about what will happen if you speak up. This hesitation is completely understandable. However, it is important to keep in mind that the law only grants you a certain amount of time to bring a sexual harassment claim. The statute of limitations, or the time period you have to bring your claim, may bar you from bringing your claim if you wait too long.

What is the Statute of Limitations for filing a Sexual Harassment Claim?

Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination. Laws at the federal, state, and local level have been put in place to protect you from experiencing this type of discrimination in the work place. Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law all work to prohibit sexual harassment. Each law is enforced by a particular government agency. Depending on what type of sexual harassment claim you are filing and what government agency is charged with processing the claim, a different statute of limitation applies.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) processes sexual harassment claims pursuant to Title VII. Generally speaking, all federal employees in New York can file a “Charge of Discrimination” with the EEOC. Additionally, an employee who is employed by a private New York Company with 15 or more employees may also file with the EEOC. EEOC charges must be filed within 300 calendar days of the date the sexual harassment occurred. The 300 days includes weekends and holidays. If the final day falls on a holiday or weekend, it will be pushed to the closest business day. Additionally, in the event you may be waiting on your employer to process a sexual harassment claim internally before taking the next step, you need to be aware that the EEOC will not extend the 300-day deadline because you are waiting for an internal resolution. When in doubt, file your EEOC claim earlier or risk waiving your ability to bring the claim at all.

All relevant statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims refer to bringing the claim within a certain time period from the date the sexual harassment occurred. However, it is common for sexual harassment to be an ongoing issue. In this case, the deadline may be calculated based on the last instance of sexual harassment.
If you are an employee of a private company in New York, regardless of the number of employees the company has, you may be able to file your sexual harassment claim with the State Division of Human Rights (SDHR) as a violation of the New York State Human Rights Law. If you are an employee of a private company in New York City that has at least 4 employees, you may file your sexual harassment complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights (CCHR). Both the SDHR and the CCHR allow you to file your claim within a year from the date the sexual harassment occurred.

You may also be considering filing a claim in court. Be mindful that federal courts require you to first file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC before you bring a lawsuit in federal court. This means you must have timely filed you claim with the EEOC. The EEOC will investigate your claim and issue you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” You will have 90 days after receiving this notice to file your claim in federal court.

If you are bringing your claim in state court, you are not required to first file a claim with the state or local administrative agency. You have 3 years from the date of the sexual harassment to file your claim in state court. This is a great option if the statute of limitations has run on the SDHR or CCHR claims.

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