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Shortening Statutes of Limitations for Kentucky Civil Rights Act Claims by Agreement

Employment discrimination claims under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (“KCRA”) are subject to a five (5) year statute of limitation.  This lengthy amount of time during which terminated employees may bring claims under the act may place employers in an uneasy position, even when the claim is less than viable.  For example, an employer terminated today may be able to file a KCRA claim against his or her former employer as late as July of 2017.  It essentially requires an employer to preserve evidence which may be utilized for its defense for several years in the future – during which time other employees alleged to have done wrong may leave the company, or move departments or locations, or during which time memories may simply fade – just in case the former employee decides to initiate an action under the KCRA.

Recently, however, two federal Courts have enforced a provision in an employment application which shortens the period of time during which an individual may file a claim under the KCRA.   In April of 2011, the federal District Court in the Western District of Kentucky ruled, in Dunn v. Gordon Food Services, Inc., 2010 WL 4180503 (W.D. Ky), that an employer may make an agreement with a prospective employee that limits the time period during which he or she may sue the company under the KCRA, so long as the time period is reasonable.  In Dunn, the Court dismissed the claim, holding that the one (1) year limitation agreed to in the plaintiff’s employment application was reasonable, and that the plaintiff had filed the claim more than one year after her discharge.  At that time, commentators opined that an agreed to a limitations period of less than one year may not be likewise upheld.  However, last month in Aytes v. Federal Express Corporation, 2012 WL 1831272 (E.D. Ky 2012), the Court upheld a similar agreement to shorten the statute of limitations, but this time found that a six (6) month period of time was reasonable.

In light of these recent decisions, it may be prudent for employers to consult with counsel to revisit its employment applications, to explore whether reasonable agreements related to statutes of limitations may provide them additional protections against employment claims.

This article is intended as a summary of federal or state law and does not constitute legal advice.

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