Court Finds “Continuing Violation Doctrine” Inapplicable to Complaint’s NYS and NYC Human Rights Law Claims

In Jarrett v. Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transportation Operating Authority, 2017 N.Y. Slip Op. 32701(U), 2017 WL 6610409 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cty., 150116/2017 Dec. 18, 2017) (J. Sokoloff), the court explained and applied the “continuing violation doctrine” in the context of plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

The court explained that “[p]laintiff filed her employment discrimination claim on January 4, 2017” and that “[s]ince the statute of limitations for claims under both the [NYSHRL and NYCHRL] is three years …, the violations alleged to have occurred … before January 4, 2014, including the claims of religious discrimination, are time-barred.”

In an attempt to rescue these claims, the plaintiff argued “that the statute should be tolled by the continuing violation doctrine.” The court explained the contours of this rule:

[T]he continuing violation doctrine … extends the limitations period for all claims of discriminatory acts committed under an ongoing policy of discrimination even if those acts, standing alone, would have been barred by the statute of limitations[.] …The doctrine has generally been limited to situations where there are specific policies or mechanisms, such as discriminatory seniority lists or employment tests …, and where a series of separate acts … collectively constitute one unlawful employment practice, such as a hostile work environment[]. The doctrine does not apply, however, to discrete discriminatory acts that are not part of a discriminatory policy or practice, even when they are related to acts alleged in timely filed charges[]. [Paragraphing altered.]

Applying the law, the court held – on the unique facts of this case – that the doctrine did “not save the amended complaint’s untimely claims”, noting that there was “no allegation of any specific policy or practice of discrimination, other than Plaintiff’s broad assertion that there was an organization-wide instruction to ignore Plaintiffs internal job search effort, which, as alleged, is not necessarily attributable to discriminatory conduct.”

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