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Court Discusses Doctrine of Election of Remedies in Employment Cases in New York

September 8, 2020

People who work in New York are protected against discrimination in the workplace by numerous laws. As such, employees that are subject to unfair treatment based on their inclusion in a protected class may be able to recover damages from their employers. It is important to note, however, that the aggrieved party will typically only get one shot at proving liability, as demonstrated in a recent New York case in which the court dismissed the plaintiff’s employment discrimination case based on a prior ruling against the plaintiff. If you were treated adversely at work due to your ethnicity, race, or any other protected class, it is critical to retain an assertive New York employment discrimination attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the plaintiff worked for the defendant as a field worker. In June 2018, he had an argument with a co-worker and did not return to work for two days. When he eventually went back to the workplace, he was terminated by his supervisor. The plaintiff was a member of a union who intervened on behalf of the plaintiff. Thus, the plaintiff entered into a final chance stipulation wherein he agreed to attend an alcohol treatment program, during which his employment would be suspended for three months. After completion of the program, he could return to work. He failed to return to work, however, and he was terminated.

Allegedly, the plaintiff then filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (the Division), averring that the defendant violated the State Human Rights Law by discriminating against him based on his ethnicity and disabilities related to his alcoholism. The Division determined that the plaintiff’s employment ended because he failed to abide by the final chance stipulation and that the plaintiff failed to produce evidence of discrimination or show that the reason for his termination was pretextual. The plaintiff then filed similar claims in state court, alleging discrimination in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law (the NYCHRL). The defendant moved to dismiss the complaint based on the doctrine of election of remedies and collateral estoppel. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Election of Remedies in Employment Discrimination Cases

Pursuant to New York’s administrative code, a party that claims to be the victim of discrimination in violation of the NYCHRL may file a lawsuit seeking damages, unless he or she previously filed a complaint with the city commission or state division of human rights regarding the same claims. Thus, the appellate court explained that, pursuant to the doctrine of the election of remedies, the plaintiff’s filing of a complaint with the Division precluded him from seeking damages in a state court lawsuit that alleged harm due to the same discriminatory acts. The appellate court explained that although the complaint the plaintiff filed in the Division alleged violations of the State as opposed to City Human rights law, the election of remedies nonetheless precluded his claims. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Knowledgeable New York Attorney

If you were discriminated against at work in violation of the law, you only have one chance to prove your employer should be held accountable and should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible regarding your rights. The knowledgeable New York employment discrimination attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP are proficient at helping mistreated employees seek recourse for their harm, and we can assist you in pursuing any compensation you might be able to recover. You can reach us via the form online or by calling us at our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070, or at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170 to schedule a conference.

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