The Risks of Representing Yourself in an Employment Discrimination Claim

Many people attempt to deal with an employment discrimination without first consulting a qualified attorney. This is often a mistake for several reasons. For one thing, there is a specific legal process employees must follow when pursuing a discrimination charge. If the worker fails to understand this process, it can doom the case before it even begins.

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Alleging Sex, Disability Discrimination

Consider this recent decision by a federal judge in upstate New York. This case, Garvey v. Wegmans, involves a plaintiff who represented himself in court without an attorney. The plaintiff worked for the defendant for approximately two years. In March of 2016, the defendant fired the plaintiff.

The plaintiff alleged that his termination was due to his medical disability, specifically his “anxiety and panic disorders.” In his lawsuit, the plaintiff said he suffered at least “three medical episodes” while working for the defendant, and that as a result he was asked “not to return.”

The plaintiff then filed two separate claims with the New York State Division of Human Rights, the state agency charged with investigating and enforcing employment discrimination laws. He also cross-filed one of these claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Division's federal counterpart.

The Division investigated the plaintiff's complaint. The defendant told the Division it fired the plaintiff for reasons unrelated to his disability–namely, that the plaintiff was accused of sexual misconduct by a coworker. Nevertheless, the Division determined there was “probable cause” to support the plaintiff's discrimination allegations.

However, sometime after the Division announced its findings, the plaintiff signed a “confidential settlement and general release,” that waived “any and all claims” he might have against the defendant. Despite this, the plaintiff proceeded to file his employment discrimination lawsuit against the defendant in federal court.

In a November 14, 2018, decision, the federal court dismissed the lawsuit. The judge explained that any discrimination claims the plaintiff might have were barred by the release, which he signed voluntarily. Furthermore, although the plaintiff alleged he was the victim of “sex discrimination,” his allegations did not support such an argument. The plaintiff insisted that the discrimination occurred when he was falsely accused of sexual misconduct, but he failed to present sufficient facts that would show the defendant's failure to properly investigate those allegations was based on any discriminatory motive.

Even if the plaintiff had a valid claim of sex discrimination, it would still be barred at the federal level because he never fully pursued his charge with the EEOC, which has jurisdiction over Title VII claims. He ended up withdrawing the EEOC charge while the Division continued its state-level investigation.

Contact a New York Sex Discrimination Lawyer Today

Employment law involves a complex web of state, federal, and local regulations. It is not something you should attempt to navigate on your own. If you have a potential claim for sex or disability discrimination in the workplace, you should speak with a qualified New York employment attorney right away. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar at 646.760.6493 to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team today.