Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed legislation Monday that would have set strict time limits on when fired workers could sue their former employers for wrongful termination.
In her 20th veto of the session, the governor refused to accept legislation that would require lawsuits to be brought within one year of a worker being terminated.
She said that is unfair as employees may not discover until much later that their firing was illegal. But David Selden, who lobbies for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the veto is unfair to businesses.
He said it basically allows a worker to come back years later — after talking to an attorney — to suddenly force a company to justify its personnel decisions.
Napolitano, however, said fired workers should have the option to go into court if they only discover later that they were illegally dismissed.
Legislation approved a decade ago gives workers one year to sue for wrongful termination.
Selden said, though, judges disagree on when the clock starts running.
The issue comes about because state law says time limits on most lawsuits begin when the person knows — or should have known — he or she was injured.
That is designed to deal with situations where someone is unaware of another person’s wrongful act.
This occurs most frequently in medical malpractice cases, such as when a surgeon leaves a sponge or implement inside a patient.
Selden acknowledged that person might not immediately know of the wrongful act. But he said that shouldn’t apply here. “When you’re fired, you know you’ve been fired,’’ he said.
“You could have an employee who comes back 10 years later and says, ‘You know, when you fired me 10 years ago I didn’t know the reason you fired me. But now I’ve talked to a lawyer,’ ” he said, a lawyer who may have some legal theory of why the firing was illegal.
Meanwhile the company has long since discarded its records, Selden said.
“Employees who are wrongfully terminated often do not discover the fact that demonstrate the wrongful nature of their termination until several weeks or months after their termination,’’ Napolitano wrote in her veto message. Napolitano said they should be given a year from the time they discover those facts to sue.