The New Jersey Supreme Court will review a lower court decision in a case called Rodriguez_v._Raymours_Furniture. There’s a lot at stake for both employers and employees.Under the NJ Law Against Discrimination, the statute of limitations (the time for an employee to sue for discrimination) is 2 years. In the Rodriguez case the employee applied for a job as a furniture delivery driver. He signed an employment application and agreed that his time to sue would be 6 months instead of 2 years.Here’s what the form said:
Applicant’s Statement-READ CAREFULLY BEFORE SIGNING-IF YOU ARE HIRED, THE FOLLOWING BECOMES PART OF YOUR OFFICIAL EMPLOYMENT RECORD AND PERSONNEL FILE.
I understand this employment application is not a promise of an offer of employment. I further understand that should I receive and accept an offer of employment, my employment does not constitute any form of contract, implied or expressed, and such employment will be terminable at will either by myself or Raymour & Flanigan upon notice of one party to the other. My continued employment would be dependent on satisfactory performance and continued need for my services as determined by Raymour & Flanigan.
I authorize investigation of all statements contained in this application. I understand that misrepresentation or omission of facts called for are grounds for a refusal to offer employment or a cause of dismissal if hired.
I AGREE THAT ANY CLAIM OR LAWSUIT RELATING TO MY SERVICE WITH RAYMOUR & FLANIGAN MUST BE FILED NO MORE THAN SIX (6) MONTHS AFTER THE DATE OF THE EMPLOYMENT ACTION THAT IS THE SUBJECT OF THE CLAIM OR LAWSUIT. I WAIVE ANY STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS TO THE CONTRARY.
Mr. Rodriguez signed and dated the form below this statement. He was later fired and filed a discrimination lawsuit – 9 months later. The company asked the court to dismiss the case, saying that the suit was barred by the statute of limitations in the employment application and the court agreed. So did the appellate court at the next level. So, can an employer enforce a term of an employment application where an employee gives up the 2 year statute of limitations allowed under the law and agrees to a shorter period for discrimination claims? That’s what our highest court will decide.What’s an employee or employer to do until then?
If you’re an employee and are asked to agree to a reduced time to sue, you have to decide if the job is worth it and you’re willing to move very fast if you’re fired and think it was because of discrimination. For business owners, the question is whether to impose a reduced period to sue now, or wait to see how the court rules.