Sexual Harassment (and Other) Claims Dismissed; Court Discusses and Applies Principles of Administrative Exhaustion, Election of Remedies, and Statute of Limitations

In Gomez v. New York City Police Dep’t, No. 15-CV-4036 (AJN), 2016 WL 3212108 (S.D.N.Y. June 7, 2016), the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the NYS and NYC Human Rights Laws.

Election of Remedies

Initially, the court held that plaintiff’s decision to pursue her claims before the NYC Commission on Human Rights precluded her from pursuing her NYC and NYS Human Rights Law claims:

Plaintiff’s complaint lodged with the CCHR alleged violations of the NYCHRL but not the NYSHRL. Nevertheless, Plaintiff’s NYCHRL and NYSHRL claims are barred by the election-of-remedies provisions in those statutes, which govern unlawful discriminatory practice[s], not claims, brought to the attention of the relevant administrative bodies. It is clear that Plaintiff’s NYCHRL and NYSHRL claims arise from the exact same discriminatory practices, namely Defendants’ treatment of Plaintiff after her workplace accident. Because Plaintiff has already challenged these unlawful discriminatory practice[s] with the CCHR, a local commission on human rights, the NYCHRL and NYSHRL election-of-remedies provisions prohibit Plaintiff from pursuing either claim in federal court even though only one statute was cited in the administrative proceeding. As Plaintiff’s state claims are barred by her election of remedies, she fails to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” and those claims must therefore be dismissed.

Administrative Exhaustion

Before commencing an action in federal court under Title VII or the ADA, a plaintiff must first file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

“However, [c]laims not raised in an EEOC complaint … may be brought in federal court if they are reasonably related to the claim filed with the agency.”  This standard will be met “if the conduct complained of would fall within the scope of the EEOC investigation which can reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge that was made.”

As to plaintiff’s Title VII claims, the court explained:

Although Plaintiff alleges in her lawsuit that she faced sexual harassment at work and had previously initiated a sexual harassment lawsuit against the NYPD, her EEOC complaint focused exclusively on Defendants’ failure to accommodate her disability and wrongful termination due to her disability. At no point does the document reference, even in passing, sexual harassment or any other discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or any other group protected by Title VII, and Plaintiff makes no claim to the contrary in her opposition. Because Plaintiff did not make any factual allegations … describing … discriminatory conduct prohibited by Title VII in her EEOC complaint, her Title VII claims are not reasonably related to the claim filed with the agency. … Because Plaintiff’s failure to exhaust her Title VII claims is clear from the face of the complaint and its incorporated documents, those claims are dismissed.

The court also dismissed plaintiff’s ADA retaliation and hostile work environment claims, since they were likewise not “reasonably related” to her EEOC charge.

Statute of Limitations

The court dismissed plaintiff’s ADA failure to accommodate claim as time-barred. Citing Second Circuit precedent, it concluded that an accommodation request is a “discrete act that does not give rise to a continuing violation and must be challenged within 300 days of the rejection itself.”

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