In a significant victory for employees, on June 15, 2016, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Rodriguez v. Raymours Furniture Company, Inc. held that employers cannot shorten the two-year statute of limitations period for claims arising under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by way of private agreement. When plaintiff Sergio Rodriguez was hired by Raymour & Flanigan, he signed a job application that stated as follows: “I agree that any claim or lawsuit relating to my service with Raymour & Flanigan must be filed no more than six (6) months after the date of the employment action that is the subject of the claim or lawsuit. I waive any statute of limitations to the contrary.” Nearly seven months after his employment termination, Mr. Rodriguez filed suit, alleging actual or perceived disability discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
Based on the above language in the job application, the trial court dismissed Mr. Rodriguez’s lawsuit as untimely. He subsequently filed an appeal with the New Jersey Appellate Division, which affirmed the trial court’s decision (see https://custodelaw.com/discrimination/can-my-employer-shorten-the-statute-of-limitations-for-employment-law-claims). Mr. Rodriguez then appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which, as set forth above, reversed the Appellate Division’s decision, finding that, as a matter of law, an employer cannot shorten the time to file an action under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
To pursue relief under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, an individual may file a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights within six months of the alleged violation or may file a lawsuit in Superior Court within two years of the alleged violation. Given that there are two available avenues of relief, the Court found that public policy requires a period of time greater than six months to obtain relief under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Thus, the Court determined that shortening the two-year statute of limitations period thwarts the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s legislative scheme. Additionally, the Court found that shortening the statute of limitations period would eliminate claims and frustrate the public policy of uniformity and certainty, may compel attorneys to file premature lawsuits, and would not give employers an adequate opportunity to investigate and resolve complaints before the filing of lawsuits under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
This is an important decision for the protection of employees’ rights in the workplace since it strictly prohibits employers from shortening and manipulating the statute of limitations period enacted by the Legislature for claims arising under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. If you have suffered from workplace harassment, discrimination or retaliation, please contact the Law Office of Frank A. Custode, LLC.