A recent decision, Klimovitsky v. JG Innovative Industries, Inc. et al, No. 21-cv-755, 2021 WL 5712120 (EDNY Dec. 1, 2021), illustrates the mechanics of asserting an employment discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Here, the court dismisses the case – not on the merits, but rather because plaintiff failed to “exhaust administrative remedies.”
The court summarized the law as follows:
Before bringing a Title VII suit in federal court, an individual must first present ‘the claims forming the basis of such a suit … in a complaint to the EEOC or the equivalent state agency.’ ” Littlejohn v. City of New York, 795 F.3d 297, 322 (2d Cir. 2015) (alteration in original) (quoting Williams v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 458 F.3d 67, 69 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Hardaway v. Hartford Pub. Works Dep’t, 879 F.3d 486, 489 (2d Cir. 2018) (“As a precondition to filing a Title VII claim in federal court, a plaintiff must first pursue available administrative remedies and file a timely complaint with the EEOC.” (citation omitted)); see also 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e) (providing procedures and deadlines for filing charges with the EEOC, following receipt of a right-to-sue letter, in court); Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 384 (2d Cir. 2015) (“Exhaustion of administrative remedies through the EEOC is an essential element of the Title VII … statutory scheme … accordingly, it is a precondition to bringing such claims in federal court.” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)). “The complainant must file the complaint with the relevant agency ‘within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory conduct and, before bringing suit, must receive a “Notice of Right to Sue” letter from the EEOC.’ ” Littlejohn, 795 F.3d at 322; see also Rivas v. New York State Lottery, 745 F. App’x 192, 193 (2d Cir. 2018) (“Title VII requires individuals aggrieved by acts of discrimination to file a charge with the … EEOC within 300 days ‘after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.’ ” (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e))); Cetina v. Longworth, 583 F. App’x 1, 2 (2d Cir. 2014) (“A Title VII employment discrimination claim must be filed with the [EEOC] … or New York State Division of Human Rights … within 300 days of the alleged unlawful practice.”); Foy v. New York, No. 21-CV-7647, 2021 WL 4311284, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 20, 2021) (“Before filing suit under Title VII, a plaintiff must first file a timely charge with the [EEOC] and obtain a Notice of Right to Sue.”). A plaintiff bringing a Title VII claim must file a complaint in federal court not more than ninety days after receipt of a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); see also Dawes v. City Univ. of New York, 193 F. App’x 59, 60 (2d Cir. 2006) (“A Title VII claimant must file his complaint not more than [ninety] days after receipt of a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC.” (citing Cornwell v. Robinson, 23 F.3d 694, 706 (2d Cir. 1994))). Failure to obtain a right-to-sue letter can be excused by the Court on equitable grounds. See Pietras v. Bd. Of Fire Comm’rs of Farmingville Fire Dist., 180 F.3d 468, 474 (2d Cir. 1999); Syeed v. Bloomberg L.P., — F. Supp. 3d —, —, 2021 WL 4952486, at *12 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 25, 2021) (“[Plaintiff] unequivocally failed to exhaust her Title VII remedies, and her Title VII claims must be dismissed, unless [plaintiff] were to show that waiver should be permitted on equitable grounds.”).
Here, plaintiff alleges in her amended complaint that she had not yet obtained a “right-to-sue” letter from the EEOC. And even though plaintiff agreed to stay her Title VII claims until the “180-day statutory conciliation period” has passed, she provided no legal authority to support her argument that the Court can stay litigation of her Title VII claims until after she receives a right-to-sue letter under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1).
The court concluded that “[b]ecause Plaintiff filed her Title VII claims prior to the receipt of a right-to-sue letter, and … has not presented any valid reasons for excusing her failure to first obtain a right-to-sue letter” it would dismiss, without prejudice, her Title VII claims.