Court Says a Six-Month Time Limit on Lawsuits is Unfair
Do you know how much time you have to bring a lawsuit if your employer discriminates against you? The New Jersey Supreme Court just decided an important case addressing this very question.
Rodriguez vs. Raymour & Flanigan
Sergio Rodriguez was a truck driver for the popular furniture retailer Raymour & Flanigan. One day, he suffered a knee injury on the job and had to file for workers' compensation so he could take some time off from work to have surgery and recover. Three days after he returned to work full-time, he was laid off.
Although the company said they laid Rodriguez off because he was not doing a good job, Rodriguez thought he was fired because of his knee injury and because he had filed a workers' compensation claim for his knee injury. He filed a discrimination lawsuit under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).
LAD claims are governed by a two-year statute of limitations, which is the time limit for bringing a lawsuit. Rodriguez assumed that his suit, which was brought only nine months after he was laid off, was timely.
However, the trial court dismissed his case based on an agreement he signed when he was first hired by Raymour & Flanigan providing that he had to bring any lawsuits against the company within six months.
Rodriguez admitted that he had signed the contract limiting his time to bring a lawsuit to six months, but he did not think it was fair to hold him to it. He was not able to speak or read English very well, so a friend had helped him fill out his contract when he was hired. He did not remember the friend telling him anything about the 6 month time limit.
This case went all the way up to the New Jersey Supreme Court, and the Court ruled that companies cannot force their employees to agree to a case-filing deadline shorter than the two-year limitations period the courts have applied to LAD claims. This is great news for employees! Employers should not be allowed to force people to give up legal rights to get a job.