In Ellis v. U.S. Security Associates, ___ Cal.App.4th ___  (March 20, 2014), the California Court of Appeal (First Appellate District, Division Two) reversed the order of the Solano County Superior Court (Judge Kinnicutt) granting defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.

Plaintiff sued defendant employer, asserting claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and other non-statutory claims arising from sexual harassment by her supervisor. Her complaint was filed within eleven months after her last day of work. Thus, it was timely filed under the applicable statute of limitations.  Nevertheless, defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that in plaintiff’s signed application for employment, she agreed that “any claim or lawsuit . . . must be filed no more than six (6) months after the date of the employment action,” and she waived “any statute of limitations to the contrary.”  Without discussion or explanation, the trial court granted the motion and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint, apparently concluding that the shortened limitation provision was enforceable.

The appellate court disagreed. Citing the well-established time frames applicable to claims made under the FEHA, the court noted that the time limit for filing an administrative claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit) is one year from the date of the unlawful act, and after that any lawsuit must be filed within one year from the date the right to-sue letter is issued by the Department. Given this, the court concluded that the 6-month limitation period proscribed by defendant was unreasonable and against public policy.