Employment Discrimination Claims, Filed 114 Days After Receiving EEOC Right-to-Sue-Letter, Dismissed as Untimely; “Equitable Tolling” Held Inapplicable

In Edo v. Antika Pizzeria Astoria, Inc., 2021 WL 2451661 (2d Cir. June 16, 2021) (Summary Order), the court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. In this case, the court discussed and applied – and rejected plaintiff’s reliance on – the doctrine of “equitable tolling.”

As the court explained, before an individual may bring a Title VII or ADEA suit in federal court, the claims forming the basis of such a suit must first be presented in a complaint to the EEOC or the equivalent state agency, and that “[i]n order to be timely, a claim under Title VII or the ADEA must be filed within 90 days of the claimant’s receipt of a right-to-sue letter.” In this case, plaintiff filed his complaint 114 days after receiving his EEOC right-to-sue letter (24 days after the statutory deadline).

Plaintiff argued that the district court should excuse his untimely filing because his paranoid schizophrenia and related conditions of anxiety and depression entitled him to equitable tolling. The district court denied that request, and the Second Circuit – reviewing that decision for abuse of discretion – affirms.

The court explained the doctrine of equitable tolling, and the circumstances under which it might apply, as follows:

While the 90-day rule is not a jurisdictional predicate, in the absence of a recognized equitable consideration, the court cannot extend the limitations period by even one day. [E]quitable tolling is only appropriate in rare and exceptional circumstances in which a party is prevented in some extraordinary way from exercising his rights. Although we have recognized that tolling is generally considered appropriate where a plaintiff’s medical condition or mental impairment prevented her from proceeding in a timely fashion [o]ur caselaw has made clear that mental illness does not toll a filing deadline per se; determining whether equitable tolling is warranted in a given situation is a highly case-specific inquiry. [Citations, ellipses, and internal quotation marks omitted.]

In reaching this conclusion, the court explained:

Here, the record reflects that Edo was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment approximately two months before he received the right-to-sue letter. The record does not indicate that Edo was hospitalized during the 90-day limitations period. Moreover, although Edo submitted evidence that he received outpatient psychiatric treatment during and after the limitations period, the record is silent as to the extent of Edo’s impairment during that period, and he does not explain how his condition changed between the limitations period and the date he filed his complaint. Furthermore, Edo claims that he suffered from the same medical condition at the time of his firing, which, if true, means that he filed his EEOC charge while suffering from his illnesses. Thus, while the record indicates that Edo suffers from a serious medical condition, it does not suggest that his condition “prevented” him from filing this lawsuit within 90 days of receiving his right-to-sue letter. [Citation omitted.]

Based on this, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff’s request for equitable tolling, and therefore correctly entered judgment in defendant’s favor.

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