Until July 1, 2020, Florida employers had to wait four years for the statute of limitations to expire when an employee filed a charge of discrimination under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA) with the Florida Commission on Human Relations1 (Commission) and the Commission had failed to make a determination on the charge within 180 days of filing. Effective July 1, 2020, that statute of limitations is now markedly shorter: one year.
Specifically, on June 30, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law Florida House Bill 255 (HB 255) which, among other things, limits the time period by which an employee must file a lawsuit alleging a violation of the FCRA when the Commission has failed to issue a determination on a charge of discrimination within 180 days of the complainant’s filing. Previously, when the Commission failed to make a determination within 180 days of a complainant’s filing, a complainant would have a generous four years from the date of the alleged adverse employment action to file a lawsuit based on the Florida Supreme Court decision Joshua v. City of Gainesville, 786 So. 2d 432 (Fla. 2000). Following HB 255, a complainant now has only one year to file a lawsuit if the Commission is unable to make a determination within 180 days of a complainant’s filing.
The FCRA protects individuals from adverse employment actions based on an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, or marital status. While sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are not explicitly listed in the FCRA, the Commission also will investigate such claims under the broader sex and gender category. Florida employers who have fifteen or more employees are covered by the FCRA.
Generally, an individual alleging a violation under the FCRA must exhaust administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the Commission. The charge must be filed within one year of the alleged discriminatory act. Following the filing of a charge, the Commission has 180 days to complete its investigation of the alleged discriminatory act. In the event that the Commission determines there is reasonable cause to believe the discriminatory practice occurred in violation of the FCRA, then the individual may request a hearing before the Division of Administrative Hearings or the individual may file a civil action in an appropriate court. Either remedy must be commenced no later than one year after the Commission issues a determination of reasonable cause or the individual is forever barred from pursuing the alleged claim under the FCRA. FULL ARTICLE