Judicial Council of California’s Emergency Orders Affecting Employment Actions
Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 pandemic on California’s judicial branch, The Judicial Council of California met yesterday and issued emergency rules related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Overall, the Judicial Council of California issued eleven different orders, however, three of them will directly affect employment cases.
Statute of Limitations Tolls for All Civil Actions
Most importantly, pursuant to Emergency Rule No. 9, the statute of limitations is tolled for all causes of action from April 6, 2020, until 90 days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted.
Generally, the statute of limitations for various employment law claims vary. The California legislature recently passed a law extending employees’ statute of limitations to file administrative complaints of discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to three (3) years. After the DFEH complaint is filed and a Right to Sue is obtained, employees have one (1) year from the Right to Sue Notice from the Department to file a discrimination, harassment or retaliation lawsuit. Pursuant to this order, if an employee’s statute of limitations would have run between April 6, 2020, and on (through 90 days after the State of Emergency is lifted), their time to file their lawsuits is tolled indefinitely for the time being.
What does this mean for employers? While employers may see a slowing of claims at this time, they should anticipate an overflow of claims as soon as the Shelter in Place order is lifted. This is a good time for employers to verify that their EPLI policies are up to date and provide full coverage in anticipation of the new claims.
Five Year Statute Limitation for Bringing an Action to Trial Extended by Six Months
Currently, in California, a plaintiff who files a lawsuit must bring that action to trial within five (5) years after it is commenced against the defendant. An action “commences” on the date the original Complaint is filed with the court. If the action is not brought to trial within five years, dismissal is mandatory on the motion of any party or on the Court’s own motion. Pursuant to Emergency Rule 10, plaintiffs will now have five years and six months to bring their cases to trial which may cause delays in matters currently in litigation.
Lastly, pursuant to Emergency Rule 11, a party or non-party deponent to appear at deposition remotely through electronic means either at their own election or at the election of the deposing party.
Notwithstanding the court delays, trial dates and related cutoffs continue to be impending. While many California courts are moving trial dates by their own motions, many are preserving all trial-related deadlines in place in accordance with the previous trial dates. This Emergency Rule will greatly assist parties to continue with conducting discovery as planned notwithstanding the Shelter in Place and Social Distancing regulations.