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New York Court Explains Remedies in Employment Discrimination Cases

April 22, 2021

People discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of religion are often able to pursue claims against their employers for violating Title VII. Prior to filing a civil lawsuit, however, an aggrieved employee must exhaust any administrative remedies, and the failure to do so may result in the dismissal of the case. This was demonstrated in a recent New York opinion, in which the court ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s religious discrimination claims. If you were subject to unjust treatment in the workplace because of your religion, you might be able to recover damages, and it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable New York employment discrimination lawyer regarding your rights.

The Plaintiff’s Claims

It is reported that the plaintiff worked as a volunteer firefighter for the defendant fire department. He was suspended following allegations that he bullied another firefighter. At the completion of the investigation, he was removed from the defendant’s membership rolls. He then filed an employment discrimination claim against the defendant, alleging he was treated adversely due to his religion in violation of Title VII. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint on the basis that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required under the law. The court allowed limited discovery on the issue prior to ruling on the matter.

Consequences of the Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

Prior to pursuing a Title VII claim in federal court, an aggrieved employee must generally exhaust his or her administrative remedies by filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC. The purpose of this requirement is to give the administrative agency the opportunity to investigate the claim and potentially mediate and take remedial action.

In New York, a party can either file a charge with the EEOC or DHR. The statute of limitations for filing a charge is 300 days from the date when the employee had notice of the discriminatory action. The aggrieved employee must then file an action in federal court within 90 days of receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC or DHR. The court explained that administrative exhaustion is not a jurisdictional requirement, but it is a precondition to pursuing a Title VII claim in federal court. As such, it may be waived or tolled in certain circumstances.

In the subject case, the plaintiff argued that the administrative exhaustion requirement should be tolled because he lacked knowledge of his rights and the proper procedure. The court declined to adopt his reasoning, finding that while he was initially unaware of the requirement, he did not file a charge after he became aware, and therefore, was not entitled to tolling. Thus, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Meet With a Dedicated Employment Attorney in New York

People who are victims of discrimination in the workplace are often able to recover damages, but if they fail to abide by the procedural requirements, they may unintentionally waive their rights. If you were discriminated against in the workplace due to your race, religion, or membership in another protected class, you should meet with an attorney. The dedicated New York employment discrimination attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP are proficient at navigating the complexities of employment discrimination claims, and we will aid you in the pursuit of the full amount of compensation recoverable under the law. You can contact us to set up a meeting through our online form or by calling us at our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170.

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