Statutes of limitations prevent claims that are too old from being pursued in court. The amount of time is prescribed by statute. Although most time limits are relatively clear, sometimes even if the amount of time has passed an employee who was harmed by an employers actions can still bring a lawsuit. For example, California law says that, unless a statute otherwise extends or shortens the time frame, lawsuits based on a liability, other than a penalty, must be brought within three years. CCP §338(a).
As such, it would seem that violations of the labor code would require employees to sue within three years. However, in most unpaid wage and unpaid overtime cases employees actually have four years to bring the suit. This is because Business & Professions Code § 17200 increases the statute of limitations for all lawsuits based on unfair business practices. Failure to pay employees wages or overtime are unfair business practices because doing so gives the employer an unfair advantage in profits. The same goes for when an employer fails to provide other rights to workers such as minimum time, or required breaks, etc. When employees bring unpaid wages and unpaid overtime lawsuits under the California Labor code, they can also sue the employer for unfair business practices; thus extending the time period that they can sue the employer.
Extending the statute of limitations up to four years is helpful because it allows more employees to join the litigation. Generally when an employer fails to pay an employees wage, it also fails to pay many of its employee’s wages. When employees band together to sue their employer they protect themselves from any retaliation and send a message to the employer that they cannot continue their unfair payment practices. Of course, extending the time frame also potentially increases the amount of damages that an employee may collect.
However, keep in mind that shorter statute of limitations still may apply to some claims under the labor code. In Pineda v. Bank of America, the California Supreme Court stated that waiting time penalties under § 203 of the Labor Code have a three year statute of limitations.
Statute of limitations laws are complex, to learn more about whether your claim still qualifies for a lawsuit contact the attorneys at Baker Law Group, LLP. You can schedule free consultation by calling (858) 452-0093. Timely action can make a big difference in your case.