Main Menu
A first time for everything

Court approves waiver of the statute of limitations period in an employment application
The Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA) has a five-year statute of limitations. That means an employee terminated in 2011 may still be permitted to bring a KCRA claim against the employer in 2016. A recent ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in Dunn v. Gordon Food Services, provides a way for employers to significantly shorten that time period. The court ruled that an employer may include in an employment application a provision that significantly shortens the statute of limitations period for the employee to bring a claim against his or her employer.

Angela Marie Dunn (Dunn) was employed by Gordon Food Services (GFS) from August 2003 until October 2009. Prior to her employment, Dunn completed an application for employment. The last page of the application contained eleven separate clauses that GFS requested applicants to agree to prior to being considered for employment. One of the clauses stated: “LIMITATION OF CLAIMS: I agree that any action or suit against [GFS] arising out of any employment or termination of employment including, but not limited to, claims arising under the State or Federal Civil Rights Statutes, must be brought within one year of the event giving rise to the claim or be forever barred. I waive any statute of limitations to the contrary.” Dunn checked a box on the application next to this clause indicating that she had read it, and agreed to its terms.

On October 3, 2008, GFS terminated Dunn. On April 9, 2010, greater than one year following her discharge, Dunn filed a lawsuit against GFS alleging claims of wrongful termination, age and gender discrimination, and hostile work environment under the KCRA. Usually, an employee who claims that an employer has violated the KCRA has five years to file such a claim. Nevertheless, GFS moved to dismiss the lawsuit because it had been filed greater than one year following Dunn’s discharge.

Court’s ruling
The court dismissed the case, ruling that, under Kentucky law, employers may make an agreement with an employee, or prospective employee, that limits the time available for the employee to sue the employer so long as the time limit is reasonable. In other words, if the time limit is too short, a court may not hold the employee to his or her agreement. In this case, the court decided that a one-year limitation period is reasonable.

As further comfort to employers, the court ruled that an employee who signs the type of agreement that Dunn signed in her employment application does not lose his or her at-will status. Dunn remained an at-will employee, whose employment could have been terminated for any legal reason, even after executing the employment application and agreeing to limit the time period available to bring any employment claims against GFS.

Bottom line
This is the first time that a court has ruled that a Kentucky employer can shorten the length of time that employees have to file an employment related claim. The advantages to an employer for doing so are obvious. By setting a limitation deadline shorter than the five-year period for claims brought under the KCRA, employers prevent the surprise and expense that comes from having to defend a lingering claim. Older claims can be more difficult and expensive to defend because witnesses and records may no longer be available years after an employee’s discharge. Employers should, with legal counsel, consider adding such agreements to employment applications.

  • Partner

    Blaine is a partner in the firm's Louisville office and a member of the Labor and Employment Practice Group. Blaine advises clients on employment law matters arising under a broad range of state and federal laws affecting employers ...



Recent Posts




Back to Page