Continuing Violation Doctrine Held Inapplicable Where Incidents Were Not “Sufficiently Related”

In Dziedzic v. State Univ. of New York at Oswego, No. 15-11, 2016 WL 2620305 (2d Cir. May 9, 2016), the court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim as time-barred.

Specifically, plaintiff’s “claims arising out of unlawful employment acts that occurred from 2005 until she took her first medical leave on January 22, 2008, were time barred because she did not file an administrative complaint concerning those events until November 19, 2008.”

Generally, a plaintiff asserting a claim of discrimination must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days of the discriminatory act. However, “[u]nder the continuing violation doctrine, a court may consider all discriminatory acts in furtherance of an ongoing policy of discrimination if at least one such discriminatory act occurred within the limitations period.”

The court explained why the continuing violation doctrine did not apply here:

In support of her continuing violation argument, Dziedzic points to three incidents that occurred after her medical leave: a sexual joke made by new co-workers in a different section of the paint department to which she was assigned shortly after she returned from medical leave;1 a November 20, 2008 incident where the human resources director asked a co-worker to take Dziedzic to a mental institution; and a December 19, 2008 incident where a co-worker swerved his car toward her. Only the sexual joke is within the 300–day limitation period. … This incident, however, is not “sufficiently related” to the harassment allegedly beginning in 2005 to constitute a “continuing violation.” … In particular, the sexual joke was made by different co-workers in a different section of the paint department than the harassment allegedly predating Dziedzic’s medical leave.

It also held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff’s discrimination and retaliation claims, because of insufficient evidence of an “adverse employment action.” Specifically, plaintiff’s transfer from one department to another was not “materially adverse”. Among other things, there was no evidence (other than plaintiff’s opinion) that the new department was “less prestigious.”