It’s not uncommon for unfair circumstances to occur in the workplace. After all, the workplace is where you clash with people of different opinions and principles.
But, that’s not the unfair part of being an employee. Differing opinions can be healthy and lead to some great outcomes for the projects you’re working on every day.
What’s unfair is how bosses and clients sometimes deal with a difference of opinions between employees. More often than not, negative emotions arise in organizations that are better off without them.
These emotions can prompt a lashing out of some sort, often resulting in legal action taken by one or more parties.
At this point, the statute of limitations comes into play. Many people are unaware of what the statute entails, which is why we’re here.
Let’s look at the main features of the statute of limitations in the workplace for criticizing anyone.
Time Limit for Filing Complaints
The statute of limitations states that there’s a time limit for filing complaints. So, in other words, your boss can’t file a complaint against you or report an incident decades after it occurred.
The same goes for seeking damages for instances that occurred in the past. But, you should know that the statute applies to specific types of court cases. So, not all cases come under the protection of the statute.
Therefore, employers or clients wishing to file complaints should first check whether it’s legal to do so. Different laws across the country have different time limits for filing complaints in the workplace.
You can’t, therefore, follow the laws in one state and claim your employer can’t file a complaint against you in another state. Remember, legal defense can be expensive and you don’t want to take on extra charges.
The time limit specified in the statute can create a legal claim for those wishing to file one. It becomes increasingly difficult to file a claim the more time passes between the occurrence of the incident.
The time limit is necessary because the more time goes by after an incident takes place, the harder it becomes for the defendant to present reliable evidence and witnesses.
In such cases, it becomes challenging for a court to determine which testimony and pieces of evidence are reliable and which aren’t.
If the prosecuting party doesn’t file a lawsuit within the specified time limit, they have to give up the claim. This feature is so that the potential defendants don’t have to fear litigation for an unspecified period.
Another reason why the statute has a time limit is that witnesses may not remember what transpired during the incident in question. So, it could be quite challenging for a defendant to gather witnesses willing to testify in court under oath.
Actions Employees Can Take
If you find yourself criticized by an employer you worked for years ago, don’t fret. First, you can check whether the claim or complaint filed by them was too long ago.
If it was, then there’s a good chance it won’t be acceptable under the statute of limitations. Indeed, this applies to employee termination as well. Depending on the state you’re working in, an employer can’t fire you over something you did years ago.
The statute doesn’t allow for the same because it doesn’t give you a fair chance to defend yourself and gather enough evidence. Also, this doesn’t apply to an employer-employee relationship alone.
It also applies to those working with clients. A client cannot legally criticize you or terminate a contract for something you did years ago. Sure, there are instances in which employers and clients don’t discover a violation until it’s too late.
There are also instances during which an employer or client is aware of what’s happening but isn’t aware they’re being violated in any way.
However, on the balance of probabilities, lawmakers decided that the statute should be put into place.
If you find yourself facing termination or criticism over an incident (or incidents) that occurred years ago, checking the statute of limitations isn’t the only option.
Considering your employer’s claim falls within the time limit specified by the statute, what then? You can file a defamation lawsuit against your employer or client making the claim.
Sure, it can be costly to hire a legal team and time-consuming to go through a court case. But, if the claim or claims made are serious enough to impact your reputation, a defamation lawsuit is worth considering.
After all, derogatory and false claims can affect your ability to continue working in the field of your choice. Besides, it’s always possible that you’ll get dragged into a lawsuit after a claim.
So, it may be a wise course of action to be one step ahead of your client or employer here.
The statute of limitations exists to protect the rights of defendants. Understanding the statute is the key to keeping yourself and your reputation safe in the workplace.
Also, it’s important to remember that the statute doesn’t specify the same time limit in all states. It also varies depending on the kind of case involved.
For instance, the statute has different specifications for criticism cases and custody cases. So, you can’t follow a generic outline for what to expect from the statute.
It’s better to rather stay abreast of the latest legal developments in employment law to protect yourself.