Employment Discrimination Complaint Properly Dismissed Under “Election of Remedies” Doctrine [Luckie v. Northern Adult Day Health Care Center]

In Luckie v. Northern Adult Day Health Care Center, 2018 NY Slip Op 03349, 2018 WL 2123993 (App. Div. 2d Dept. May 9, 2018), the Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint under CPLR 3211(a) pursuant to the NYS Human Rights Law’s “election of remedies” doctrine.

This decision illustrates why employment discrimination plaintiffs – who have a variety of venues to choose from in which to assert their claims – must tread carefully to avoid procedural pitfalls.

Briefly, plaintiff initially filed an administrative complaint against his employer with the NYS Division of Human Rights, alleging unlawful employment discrimination based on race, color, and national origin. The NYSDHR issued a “no probable cause” determination following an investigation. After the court denied plaintiff’s CPLR Article 78 challenge to that determination, the plaintiff commenced this action in State Supreme Court. Defendant moved to dismiss under 3211(a)(1); the court granted that motion.

This court affirmed, explaining:

“Pursuant to the election of remedies doctrine, the filing of a complaint with [the Division] precludes the commencement of an action in the Supreme Court asserting the same discriminatory acts” (Vetro v. Hampton Bays Union Free Sch. Dist., 148 A.D.3d 963, 964, 50 N.Y.S.3d 102; see Executive Law § 297[9]; Rodriguez v. Dickard Widder Indus., 150 A.D.3d 1169, 1170–1171, 56 N.Y.S.3d 328). The election of remedies doctrine does not implicate the subject matter jurisdiction of the court, but rather deprives a plaintiff of a cause of action (see Rodriguez v. Dickard Widder Indus., 150 A.D.3d at 1171, 56 N.Y.S.3d 328). Here, the plaintiff’s causes of action are based on the same allegedly discriminatory conduct asserted in the proceedings before the Division. Therefore, the plaintiff is barred from asserting those claims under the NYCHRL in this action.

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