Retaliation Claim Was “Reasonably Related” to EEOC-Filed Claims

In Connolly v. City of New York, 2022 WL 843497 (2d Cir. March 22, 2022), the court, inter alia, vacated the lower court’s dismissal (on timeliness grounds) of plaintiff’s retaliation claim.

From the decision:

We first address the District Court’s decision to dismiss as time-barred Connolly’s retaliation claims arising before November 20, 2013. The District Court dismissed those claims under Rule 12(b)(6) because he failed to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of date the retaliatory act occurred. We conclude that the District Court erred when it failed to consider the “reasonably related” doctrine, which applies where the retaliation is alleged to have occurred, as here, “while the EEOC charge is still pending before the agency.” Duplan v. City of New York, 888 F.3d 612, 622 (2d Cir. 2018). In such cases, “the retaliation claim is deemed ‘reasonably related’ to the original EEOC filing,” and the original filing satisfies Title VII’s exhaustion requirement as to the retaliation claim. Owens v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 934 F.2d 405, 410–11 (2d Cir. 1991). “The retaliation claim may thus be heard notwithstanding [the] plaintiff’s failure to state it in a separate complaint filed with the EEOC.” Id. at 411. In dismissing certain retaliation claims as untimely, the District Court relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101 (2002). Our decisions after Morgan, however, have continued to recognize an exception for retaliation claims “reasonably related” to pending EEOC complaints. See, e.g., Duplan, 888 F.3d at 622. The City makes no argument on appeal that those decisions are incorrect. We therefore vacate the District Court’s judgment insofar as it dismissed the claims of retaliation that occurred prior to November 20, 2013.

The court did, however, affirm the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s retaliation claims that it did deem timely, since, as to those claims, plaintiff failed to adduce any evidence that the defendants’ proffered legitimate, non-retaliatory justifications were a pretext for illegal retaliation.

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