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September 19, 2019

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Employee May Contract to Shorter Limitations Period for Discrimination Suits, New Jersey Court Holds

An employee may contract with his employer for a limitations period for filing  discrimination lawsuits shorter than that which is prescribed by the New Jersey Law Against  Discrimination (“LAD”) (i.e., less than the statutory two years), the New Jersey Appellate Division has held. Rodriguez v. Raymours Furniture Company, Inc., Case No. A-4329-12T3, 2014 N.J. Super. LEXIS 88 (App. Div. June 19, 2014). 

The Court upheld a waiver provision in an initial employment application that shortened to six months the two-year statute of limitations for filing claims against the employer. The appeals court also found a subsequent application for promotion, omitting any reference to a shortened statutory time frame, did not override the waiver provision in the initial employment application. In finding this provision to be enforceable, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint as time-barred because it was filed after the agreed-upon six-month period. 

The Suit

Nine months after his termination, Sergio Rodriguez filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey, alleging his former employer terminated his employment in violation of the LAD and the anti-retaliation provisions of the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act. Both statutes have two-year statutes of limitations for bringing claims.

The employer moved to dismiss the claims, arguing that Rodriguez’s complaint was time-barred under the waiver provision in his initial employment application. The court granted the employer’s summary judgment motion and dismissed the complaint as time-barred.

Shortened Period Found Reasonable

The appellate court affirmed, holding the shortened limitation period was reasonable and not contrary to public policy. It explained that: 

(1) the language was prominently set forth in the application, written in bold and in capital letters; 

(2) the language was clear and uncomplicated and thus, clearly and expressly apprised the applicant of the shortened limitation period; 

(3) the plaintiff was permitted to take the application home for review; and 

(4) six months is not unreasonable since employees who elect to bring an LAD claim through the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) have to do so within a similar 180-day deadline. 

Moreover, the Court found no evidence to show the parties intended a subsequent promotional application completed by Rodriguez superseded or eliminated the agreement to the shorter limitations period in his initial application. 

Although a subsequent appeal may follow, the decision underscores the recent trend in New Jersey court decisions enforcing contracts according to their terms between an employer and employee. 

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2019

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About this Author

James M. McDonnell, Jackson Lewis, restrictive covenants lawyer, harassment retaliation attorney
Principal

James M. McDonnell is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He represents management exclusively in all aspects of employment litigation, including restrictive covenants, class-actions, harassment, retaliation, discrimination and wage and hour claims.

Mr. McDonnell regularly represents employers in federal and state courts and administrative agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, the United States Department of Labor, and...

973-451-6351
Eric G. Guglielmotti, Jackson Lewis, arbitration hearings attorney, collective bargaining lawyer
Associate

Eric G. Guglielmotti is an Associate in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. His practice focuses on employment litigation and traditional labor matters. Mr. Guglielmotti represents clients in both federal and state courts, as well as before administrative agencies including the National Labor Relations Board, New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Mr. Guglielmotti also advocates on behalf of employers at arbitration hearings and during collective bargaining negotiations. In addition, Mr. Guglielmotti advises unionized and non-unionized clients with respect to a wide array of issues arising under the National Labor Relations Act and Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

(973) 538-6890