Discrimination & Constructive Discharge Claims Against School District Dismissed on Statute of Limitations Grounds

In Dipietrantonio v Deer Park Union Free School District, No. 610828/17, 64 Misc. 3d 1239(A), 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 51459(U), 2019 WL 4384169 (Sup Ct, Sep. 09, 2019), the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims – on timeliness and procedural grounds, without assessing the merits – of sex and age discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law.

As to plaintiff’s discrimination claim, the court held:

New York State Executive Law § 296 sets forth unlawful discriminatory practices by an employer against an employee. In the context of its application against a school district the Court turns to the “clear and unambiguous language” of Education Law § 3813[2-b] to find the “statute of limitation on such a claim is one year” (Amorosi v. South Colonie Independent Central School District, 9 NY3d 367, 369 [2007]). Therefore, this case hinges on the moment when the claim began to accrue against the Defendants. Plaintiff’s letter to the District notifying it of her retirement is that critical moment. Delivered to the District on January 29, 2016 and approved by the Board of Education on February 9, 2016, the plaintiff filed her complaint on June 9, 2017 more than a year from either date. The court concludes that plaintiff’s complaint, filed more than a year after that letter was delivered and approved is thus untimely.

The court held that plaintiff’s constructive discharge claim was likely untimely:

As to plaintiff’s claim of constructive discharge the Court finds that the date of the letter again becomes the focal point. Constructive discharge occurs when an employer makes working conditions “so intolerable that [an employee] is forced into an involuntary resignation.” (see Pena v. Brattleboro Retreat, 702 F.2d 322, 325 [2d Cir. 1983]; Stetson v. NYNEX Service Co., 995 F.2d 355 [2d Cir. 1993]). The proper focus in determining the accrual date of a cause of action for employment discrimination “is upon the time of the discriminatory acts, not upon the time at which the consequences of the acts become most painful.” (Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 US 250, 258 [1980]). A claim of constructive discharge occurs, at the latest, when the employee submits his or her resignation — irrespective of the effective date of employment termination. (Id.) Even under a theory of constructive discharge the accrual began at the time the letter was submitted or approved. The complaint was filed more than a year from either date. Therefore, the constructive discharge claim is unavailing.

Finally, the court held that plaintiff failed to timely serve a notice of claim upon the school district as required by Education Law § 3813, and (given plaintiff’s untimely filing) the court was without jurisdiction to grant plaintiff’s request for an extension.

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