Thursday 4th February 2021
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which serves the federal district courts of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, recently clarified that claims are made under the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) cannot be subject to contractually shortened limitation periods. In Thompson v Fresh Products, LLC, No. 20-3060 (Jan. 15, 2021), the Sixth Circuit stated that the statute of limitations for claims under ADA and ADEA is a material right that cannot be waived with the consent of the Parties. That decision was an extension of the 2019 Sixth Circuit decision in the Logan v MGM Grand Detroit Casino case that the statute of limitations for claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964 could not be shortened by agreement of the parties.
In 2018, plaintiff Cassandra Thompson filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio alleging that her employer, Fresh Products, LLC, had her in violation of the law for her disability, age, and race ADA discriminates. ADEA or Title VII in the event of termination of employment during a layoff. She also made disability and racial discrimination claims under analogous Ohio state law. The district court ruled in favor of Fresh Products on Thompson’s ADA claims, state discrimination claims (both race and disability), and ADEA claims on the basis that they were out of date and that “Thompson did not have any prima facie evidence of discrimination one of their claims. “
Thompson had previously signed a manual acknowledgment stating that he was willing to be bound by a contractually reduced limitation period of six months in order to “settle any claims or litigation [her] Employed at Fresh Products ”but she did not bring her claims to court until approximately 16 months after she ended her employment. However, Thompson filed a discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a few days after she ended her employment. Still, the district court enforced the contractually shortened statute of limitations for Thompson’s discrimination claims against ADA, ADEA, and state law, but not for their Title VII claims.
The decision of the sixth circle
The Sixth Circle, based largely on its 2019 Logan decision to analyze Title VII, believed that Thompson’s ADA and ADEA claims were timely because the applicable statute of limitations could not be contractually shortened. The court ruled that Thompson was given the full 300-day statute of limitations to bring her claims through a discrimination charge that satisfied her. Since their action was then filed before the deadline specified in their notice of termination and application (90 days), the court found that their action – despite the contractually shortened six-month limitation period – was timely.
The court clarified that the statute of limitations of ADA and ADEA were “material, irrevocable rights” and declined to replace the statute of limitations of 300 days and the following 90 days. The court’s decision relied on both the express language of the ADA and ADEA, as well as the court’s earlier decision, which stated that “when laws that create rights and remedies contain their own limitation periods, the limitation period as material Should be treated right ”. Which cannot be renounced. Despite finding that Thompson’s claims were timely given the contractually reduced statute of limitations, the court upheld the dismissal of their ADA and ADEA claims based on the evidence presented.
The central theses
With this decision, two further federal labor laws are no longer subject to contractually shortened limitation periods, but at first glance they do not affect analogous state laws. In each of the states that make up the Sixth Circuit, the statute of limitations for certain discrimination claims can be shortened by agreement of the parties under state law. Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee all have contractually shortened statutes of limitations, with six months being a common time frame.
For example, in Michigan, following a 2005 Michigan Appeals Court decision, it has become a common practice to include a shortened statute of limitations in many employment contracts and handbook approvals. More recently, however, there have been developments regarding the statute of limitations on discrimination claims in Ohio. While Kentucky is not as permissive as the rest of the world, Kentucky can enforce the parties’ agreements to reduce statute of limitations, but only if the plaintiff is granted a statute of limitations equal to half the statute of limitations. According to the law, more restrictive limitation periods are not enforceable. Accordingly, agreements to shorten the limitation periods during which applicants or employees can assert claims may also be advantageous in light of the Thompson decision.
© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart, PC, All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 35