If you are the victim of employment discrimination, you have multiple possible options for seeking justice. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to seek relief by filing a complaint with a state or city agency, by filing a lawsuit directly against the discriminating business in federal court. However, if you choose one particular avenue and find yourself dissatisfied with the result, you may find yourself unable to pursue another option.
Federal Judge Rules Ex-Drugstore Employee's Claims Barred by Results of New York State Investigation
Here is an example of what we are talking about. This is taken from a recent decision by a federal judge in Manhattan. The plaintiff in this case filed a lawsuit alleging his former employer, a popular drugstore chain, fired him on the basis of his “race, color, and national origin.”
The defendant fired the plaintiff in November 2014. Nearly a year later, in October 2015, the plaintiff filed administrative complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Division conducted an investigation into the plaintiff's discrimination complaints. Ultimately, the Division dismissed the complaint “for lack of probable cause.” Shortly thereafter, the EEOC issued its own order adopting the Division's findings as its own.
By law, the plaintiff had the right to appeal the Division's decision in New York State court, or to file a federal lawsuit within 90 days of the EEOC's order. The plaintiff failed to take advantage of either option. Instead, acting without the advice or assistance of an attorney, he filed a federal lawsuit against the defendant in November 2017–well past the deadline specified by the EEOC. The judge rejected the plaintiff's federal employment discrimination claims as “untimely” for this reason.
The plaintiff also alleged the defendant violated the New York City Human Rights Law. The judge dismissed this claim because of a legal rule known as the “election of remedies doctrine.” Basically, this doctrine holds that once a complaint has been investigated or dismissed by the New York State Division of Human Rights (or the New York City Commission on Human Rights), a plaintiff can not seek to re-litigate the same issues in federal court.
Here, the state Division investigated and dismissed the plaintiff's original discrimination claims and found a lack of probable cause. Even though the plaintiff's federal lawsuit cited New York City law, as opposed to state law, it was still based on the same underlying facts previously investigated by the Division. The judge therefore held the election of remedies doctrine prevented the federal courts from considering any potential violation of New York City law as well.
Speak with a New York City Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today
Discrimination law is quite complex. There are multiple layers of agencies and courts to deal with. This is why you should always work with an experienced New York City employment attorney who can advise you on the best course of action based on the specific facts of your case. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team today.