Federal and Louisiana law both protect employees from workplace discrimination. The Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, La. R.S. 23:301 et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 generally prohibit employers from discriminating against their workers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In fact, the laws are so similar that Louisiana employees who suffer discrimination on-the-job almost always have the right to seek compensatory damages, back pay, benefits, reinstatement, or front pay under either or both laws. Where Louisiana and federal discrimination laws differ substantially, however, is in how much time an employee has to file a discrimination lawsuit against their employer with a personal injury law firm. The inconsistent procedural requirements for the assertion of state and federal discrimination claims further complicate matters.
How to File a Discrimination Lawsuit
Employment discrimination claims made under Louisiana law are subject to a prescriptive period of one year. La. R.S. 23:303(D). This usually means that an employee must file an employment discrimination lawsuit within one year of the last discriminatory act, such as termination or demotion due to race, or risk losing their ability to recover damages under Louisiana law. One important exception allows employees as much as an additional six months to file suit if their claims are being investigated Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights (“LCHR”).
The prescriptive period for the federal employment discrimination claims differs, however, from that of similar state claims. Under federal law, an employee must first file a “Charge of Discrimination” with the EEOC or LCHR before filing a civil lawsuit against their employer. Employees in Louisiana must submit their charge to the EEOC/LCHR within 300 days after the last discriminatory act occurred. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 109, 122 S. Ct. 2061, 2070, 153 L. Ed. 2d 106 (2002). An employee can only file a civil lawsuit against their employer after the EEOC/LCHR dismisses their complaint and provides them with a “Right to Sue” notice. Upon receiving that notice from the EEOC/LCHR, the employee has just 90 days to assert their discrimination claims in a civil lawsuit.
Often an employee who feels they have been the victim of employment discrimination will file an initial charge with the EEOC/LCHR and wait patiently while the claim is investigated. Since they cannot file suit under federal law until the EEOC/LCHR dismisses their claim and provides them notice of their right to sue, the employee’s federal rights are preserved. However, the same is not true of their rights under state law. While the EEOC/LCHR investigation is on-going, the clock continues to run on their state law claim. If the EEOC/LCHR investigation drags on for more than 18 months – which is not uncommon -, there is a very real chance the employee’s state law claims may prescribe.
Get Help Filing an EEOC Claim
A Louisiana employee who has been discriminated against at work should consult an experienced employment attorney immediately, even before filing the initial Charge of Discrimination. The deadlines under both Louisiana and federal law are as unforgiving as they are difficult to compute. An attorney can help ensure none of those deadlines is missed, and all of the employee’s rights are adequately preserved. In addition, an experienced attorney can identify possible exceptions to the general rules that may save otherwise prescribed claims.
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If you or a loved one are facing employment discrimination, workplace injury, or even car accident injuries from ringing in the ears to severe spinal injuries, call our law firm today to see how our Baton Rouge attorneys can best serve you.