On April 12, 2017, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an opinion in Peterson v. City of Minneapolis, 2017 Minn. LEXIS 195 (Apr. 12, 2017), that may extend the statute of limitations for some employment claims brought under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Scott Peterson was a Minneapolis Police Officer for several years. In 2011, he was transferred to a new police unit, and he complained that the transfer was because of age discrimination. Rather than file a charge of discrimination, Officer Peterson filed a complaint through the City’s internal investigative wing. Over a year later, the City concluded that Officer Peterson had not been discriminated against.
Officer Peterson then sued the City. The City responded by arguing that it was too late to sue—there is a one-year statute of limitations for claims under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and Peterson was more than a year after his transfer. But, as the Minnesota Supreme Court recognized, that one-year statute of limitations is “tolled” or suspended during the time that the parties are engaged in their own dispute resolution process. So for Officer Peterson, the time that the City was investigating his discrimination claim did not count against his statute of limitations. That meant that even though Officer Peterson sued more than a year after his transfer, his claim was still timely.
Before seeking a lawyer, many employees will attempt to work out their employment issues directly with their employers. With the Peterson case, it now seems this time may not count toward the statute of limitations for claims under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. However, because many employment claims have very short statutes of limitations, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible if you have an employment concern or a workplace dispute.