Plaintiff Egri had been an employee of US Airways from 1972 to 1993, when she was injured while working as a customer service agent. Egri left work on disability and then requested reinstatement with accommodations the following year. US Airways denied her request for reinstatement because the requested accommodations were inconsistent with her job description. More than five years after the denial of reinstatement, Egri sued, alleging handicapped-based discrimination in violation of the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act (“VFEPA”) and seeking damages for emotional distress and lost income and benefits. The Vermont statute of limitations for claims of “injuries to the person” or injury to property is three years. Vermont also has a six year catch-all statute of limitations for all civil actions not otherwise covered. There is no specific statute of limitations in VFEPA.
NELF’s amicus brief, filed on behalf of Associated Industries of Vermont and the Vermont Retail Association, supported the employer’s argument that the three year statute of limitations applies. NELF argued that employment discrimination claims have more in common with common law tort (three year) than contract (six year) claims. Employment discrimination cases often involve disputed factual issues arising from a number of different statements or incidents over a period of time. Fresh memories are essential in these circumstances, where shades of meaning in statements or interpersonal interactions are key to interpreting intent. The Vermont Supreme Court held that the plaintiff’s emotional distress claims were “injuries to the person” within the three year statute (and thus were time barred), while the claims for economic loss fell within the general six year statute.