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June 24, 2021 Employment Law

Sexual Harassment: Statute of Limitations

Workers in Virginia are protected against workplace sexual harassment under state and federal laws that protect against gender discrimination. Sexual harassment claims, however, are subject to a time limit (also called the statute of limitations) mandated under both federal and Virginia state law. 

Broadly speaking, a sexual harassment claim must be initiated within six months — or 180 days — of the most recent incident. Our Virginia sexual harassment lawyers can highlight the key things to know about the statute of limitations. 

A Sexual Harassment Complaint Should Be Filed Within 180 Days

What Constitutes Sexual HarassmentEmployment discrimination matters, including sexual harassment claims, are subject to a strict statute of limitations. As explained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an employee should “file a charge within 180 calendar days from the day the discrimination took place.” The Virginia Employment Commission also states that a “complaint must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination.”

An Extension to 300 Days: As sexual harassment is covered by both federal law and Virginia law, an employee may be able to get a statute of limitations extension of up to 300 days. If you have any questions about the deadline in a specific sexual harassment case, it is highly recommended that you reach out to a top-rated Virginia employment lawyer for guidance. 

Each New Incident of Sexual Harassment Resets the Timeline 

In applying the statute of limitations to any given sexual harassment claim, you may be wondering: When does the statute of limitations clock start to run? As with other types of employment discrimination cases, the statute of limitations is 180 days — or 300 days with an extension — since the most recent offending incident. Some examples of conduct that could constitute unlawful sexual harassment under federal and Virginia law include: 

  • Rude and vulgar statements; 
  • Suggestive and lewd comments; 
  • Offensive, unwanted jokes of a sexual nature; 
  • Outright propositions for sexual favors; and
  • Unwanted touching.  

PM HomepageIn evaluating a sexual harassment claim, state and federal courts apply the “severe or pervasive” legal standard. Harassment of a sex-based nature is unlawful it if is sufficiently severe or sufficiently pervasive. This standard has important implications for the statute of limitations. 

Often, to show that workplace harassment is “severe or pervasive,” an employee will file a sexual harassment claim on the basis of a pattern of repeated misconduct. When this occurs, it is possible that a court will allow some incidents that took place more than 180 days (or 300 days) ago into evidence. As long as the most recent sexual harassment occurred within the statutory deadline, prior misconduct may still be admissible. 

Call Our Virginia Sexual Harassment Attorneys for Immediate Help 

At Pierce Jewett, PLLC, our Virginia employment lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to advise you with all manner of workplace sexual harassment claims. If you have any questions about the sexual harassment statute of limitations, we can help. 

Contact us to schedule a confidential initial appointment with an attorney. From our Norfolk and Richmond offices, we provide employment law representation throughout the Commonwealth.  

Call today! (757) 304-8846