Individuals now have one year, instead of four, to file a lawsuit under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA) if the Florida Commission on Human Relations fails to act on a complaint within 180 days. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an amendment to match this period to the one-year period given if the commission issues a cause determination.
Before the amendment, when could someone file a lawsuit under the FCRA?
Prior to filing a lawsuit alleging discrimination under the FCRA, an individual must file a complaint with the commission within 365 days of the alleged violation. The commission has 180 days to investigate. If the commission determines there is reasonable cause to believe an employer violated the FCRA, the charging party may file a civil lawsuit against the employer or request an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge.
The charging party has one year after the date of the determination to file suit. If the commission determines there is no reasonable cause to believe a violation of the FCRA exists, the charging party can seek administrative review but may not file a lawsuit.
The commission may fail to act on the complaint within 180 days. In this case, the charging party may file a lawsuit as if the commission issued a reasonable cause determination. Prior to the amendment, the FCRA did not limit the period in which a charging party must file a lawsuit after the commission fails to render a decision within 180 days. The Florida Supreme Court resolved this issue in Joshua v. City of Gainesville, holding that a charging party has four years from the date of the adverse action to file a lawsuit under the FCRA if the commission does not act within 180 days.
How does the amendment change the law?
The amendment effectively replaces the Joshua framework and requires the commission to “promptly notify” the charging party of its failure to act within 180 days. The charging party then has one year from the date the commission certifies the notice was mailed to bring a civil action under the FCRA. It remains unclear, however, what constitutes “promptly” notifying the charging party. Nonetheless, the amendment significantly lessens the time a charging party may bring suit if the commission fails to act and helps bring uniformity to the law. Read the amendment here.
Please contact Austin Laurienzo or any other member of Phelps’ Labor and Employment team if you have questions or need compliance advice and guidance.