The Supreme Court of Arkansas recently ruled that employment-related retaliation claims may be filed in Arkansas within three (3) years of the alleged retaliatory conduct taking place. In Smith v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., the Supreme Court answered this question proposed by an Arkansas Federal District Court Judge in an ongoing employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. The question was certified to the State's highest court because Arkansas's retaliation statute does not set forth a specific time period in which a claim must be filed to be timely.
The Supreme Court did not agree with the employer's argument that employee retaliation claims should have a one (1) year statute of limitation because they were created by the Arkansas Legislature as a part of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, which has a one-year statute of limitation. Instead, the Court held that the Legislature, by creating a statute with remedies and procedures different from discrimination statutes, intended employee retaliation claims to be different from those claims. Without a change in the wording of the relevant laws, retaliation claims are now clearly timely so long as they are filed within three years of any alleged retaliatory act.
Only the Arkansas Legislature can change this inconsistency in the law, and employers should contact their Senators and Representatives to express a desire for uniformity in the law. In the meantime, employers should review company policies and procedures, including record retention guidelines, to ensure compliance with this mandate.