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Court Discusses Equitable Tolling in Employment Discrimination Cases in New York

June 19, 2020

When a victim of employment discrimination wishes to seek compensation for their losses via a civil lawsuit, he or she must file any claims within the time constraints set forth under the applicable laws. In certain circumstances, however, a plaintiff’s failure to pursue a claim in a timely manner may be excused, such as when the plaintiff is suffering from a medical condition. Different standards apply in state and federal claims for tolling the statute of limitations due to an illness, though, and a plaintiff that relies on an incorrect standard may waive the right to recover damages, as demonstrated in a recent New York case. If you were harmed due to employment discrimination in New York, it is critical to retain an experienced New York employment discrimination attorney to assist you in pursuing damages.

History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff worked as a doctor at the defendant hospital. She filed a lawsuit in federal court against the defendant, setting forth numerous claims, including disability discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the employment discrimination claims, arguing the claims were barred by the statute of limitations.

Allegedly, the plaintiff argued that she was entitled to equitable tolling of the statute of limitations due to health issues that prevented her from filing the complaint in a timely manner. The court granted the motion, dismissing the plaintiff’s state employment discrimination claims. The plaintiff filed a Rule 59(e) motion for reconsideration, arguing that the trial court erred in ruling the statute of limitations should not be tolled.

Equitable Tolling of Statute of Limitations in Employment Discrimination Claims

Under Rule 59(e), a court may alter a judgment to amend a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice in cases where there has been a change in controlling law or new evidence is available. A Rule 59(e) motion cannot be used to relitigate issues that have already been decided, however.

In the subject case, the court assessed the plaintiff’s motion, despite the fact that she failed to produce new evidence or demonstrate there had been an intervening change in law. In doing so, the court found that the Plaintiff had misstated the applicable law. Specifically, the plaintiff relied on the federal standard for determining whether a statute of limitations should be tolled due to a plaintiff’s medical condition. The court noted, however, that as the plaintiff asserted discrimination claims in violation of state law, the state standard applied. Thus, the plaintiff was required to show that she suffered from an incapacitating and severe disability, such that she was unable to comprehend her legal rights. As the plaintiff failed to meet this standard, the court denied her motion for reconsideration.

Discuss Your Case With a Dedicated New York Attorney

If you were the victim of workplace discrimination, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to avoid waiving your right to recover damages. The capable New York employment discrimination attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP possess the skills and resources needed to set forth compelling arguments on your behalf to provide you with a strong chance of a successful outcome. You can call us at our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 and at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170. We can also be reached through our online form to set up a conference.

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