How an Article 78 Proceedings May Affect Your Right to Sue Later

Article 78 proceedings allow public employees in New York to challenge disciplinary or termination decisions made by their employer. A public employee must typically go through an administrative review process first. But if the employee is not satisfied with the outcome, he or she may initiate an Article 78 proceeding in New York State Supreme Court seeking to modify or overturn the employer's decision.

Federal Court Dismisses Rejected Police Applicant's Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

An important thing to note about Article 78 proceedings is that they can limit your ability to pursue a separate lawsuit alleging employment discrimination. To illustrate what we mean by this, consider this recent decision by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals here in New York, Roth v. County of Nassau. The Second Circuit is the court with appellate jurisdiction over all federal trial courts based in New York.

In this case, the plaintiff applied for a job as a police officer in Nassau County on Long Island. The County denied the application, citing the plaintiff's inability to meet the mental and physical requirements of the position. The plaintiff then initiated an Article 78 proceeding in state supreme court, alleging in part the County illegally discriminated against him because he had diabetes.

During the Article 78 proceeding, the state judge accepted the County's position that it would be impossible for the plaintiff to perform the duties of a police officer because “there was a significant risk that [the plaintiff] could become mentally or physically incapacitated during bursts of severe exertion, including in pursuing suspects, using force, and rescuing individuals.” The Americans with Disability Act and New York law only require an employer to make a “reasonable accommodation” for a disabled job applicant. The County insisted there was no reasonable accommodation it could provide under these circumstances, and the Supreme Court judge agreed.

The plaintiff then attempted to file a separate federal lawsuit alleging disability discrimination. But both a federal district court, and ultimately the Second Circuit, held this new lawsuit was barred by the outcome of the prior Article 78 proceeding. As the Second Circuit explained, a legal rule known as collateral estoppel prevented the plaintiff from essentially litigating his claim a second time. The state court “acknowledged” the plaintiff's discrimination argument and dismissed it “in its entirety,” the Second Circuit noted. In other words, the state court effectively agreed with Nassau County that there was no way to make a “reasonable accommodation” for the plaintiff's diabetes. Therefore the County was not liable for discrimination under the ADA or New York State law.

Speak with a New York Disability Discrimination Lawyer Today

Before you start an Article 78 proceeding, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced New York City employment attorney. Many public employees and job applicants are unaware of how Article 78 cases may affect their rights in future legal proceedings. Do not allow yourself to fall into this trap. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team today.