Labor and Employment E-lert: Statute of Limitations Shortened for Filing of Civil Actions Under the Florida Civil Rights Act

By: Sarah P. Reiner, Shareholder

On Tuesday, June 30, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis signed off on CS/HB 255 (the "Bill"), a bill amending Chapter 760 of the Florida Statutes related to the Florida Commission on Human Relations ("Commission"), which is responsible for enforcing the Florida Civil Rights Act (the "Act"). The Act prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap and marital status, as well as retaliation. The Act also provides for an administrative complaint process, investigation and conciliation efforts by the Commission upon filing of a complaint alleging a violation of the Act.

Among other things, the Bill approved by the Governor amends Section 760.11 (Administrative and Civil Remedies; Construction) of the Act. Although several changes are made to Section 760.11, the most significant for employers is that the amendment limits the time for filing a lawsuit based on a complaint made to the Commission to one (1) year following the Commission’s notice that it failed to timely conciliate or determine whether there is reasonable cause.  

As amended, Section 760.11(8), Florida Statutes, now provides in pertinent part:

(8) _ If the commission fails to conciliate or determine whether there is reasonable cause on any complaint under this section within 180 days after the filing of the complaint:

(a) An aggrieved person may proceed under subsection (4) as if the commission determined that there was reasonable cause.

(b) The commission shall promptly notify the aggrieved person of the failure to conciliate or determine whether there is reasonable cause. The notice shall provide the options available to the aggrieved person under subsection (4) and inform the aggrieved person that he or she must file a civil action within 1 year after the date the commission certifies that the notice was mailed.

(c) A civil action brought by an aggrieved person under this section must be commenced within 1 year after the date the commission certifies that the notice was mailed  pursuant to paragraph (b).

Prior to the foregoing amendment, where the Commission failed to conciliate or determine reasonable cause within 180 days, Florida common law provided that the party making a complaint pursuant to the Act had up to four (4) years in which to file a lawsuit in state court alleging a violation of the Act.

These amendments are effective today, July 1, 2020. 

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