What Is the Time Frame to File a Complaint About Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination can cause emotional distress.
Wrongful termination can cause emotional distress. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired for reasons that are illegal or unethical, such as firing a person based on skin color or religion. Federal and state laws protect the rights of individuals in wrongful termination cases. The amount of time a person has to file a case differs depending on filing venue and the state in which the case is filed.

Wrongful Termination

Almost every state follows the “employment at will” doctrine, which allows employers or employees to end the working relationship without good cause. “At will” means an employer has the right to fire any employee at any time. Wrongful termination occurs when the reason for the termination violates federal or state law. Examples of wrongful termination include firing an individual on the basis of personal characteristics such as race, sex or religion; in retaliation for whistle-blowing; by way of constructive discharge (making job conditions unbearable); or in a manner that violates an employer’s normative procedures.

Statute of Limitations

Wrongful termination cases that involve discrimination or harassment violate federal laws and must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC limits the amount of time a person has to file a lawsuit. According to federal law, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful termination suit is usually 180 days from the date of termination. If federal and state laws were violated, the statue of limitations is extended to 300 days. WrongfulTerminationLaws.com contends the narrow window for action helps “maintain citizens’ rights to a speedy trial and preserve freshness about the case and its evidence.”

State Statutes

At times, a wrongful termination case may violate state rather than federal laws. The majority of wrongful termination cases fall under states' jurisdiction, according to LawFirms.com. For cases governed by state law, the statute of limitations varies according to state. In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations is 300 days from the date of termination. In South Carolina, wrongful termination claims must be filed within 180 days. Those living in California or Michigan may have up to three years to pursue a wrongful termination claim. In Texas and Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is 180 days for government-filed claims and two years for civil claims. In New York, the statute of limitations differs depending on the specific law violated. In North Carolina, there is no time limit for filing a wrongful termination case.


The remedies for victims of wrongful termination differ by state and generally include reinstatement and monetary compensation. For example, in many states, victims of wrongful termination are entitled to job reinstatement, lost wages, compensation for suffering and stress, attorney’s fees, court costs and punitive damages.

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