Court Dismisses ADA Disability Discrimination Claim as Unexhausted, Title VII Race Discrimination Claim as Insufficiently Pled

The Southern District of New York’s recent decision in McCray v. Project Renewal, Inc., 15-cv-8494, 2017 WL 715010 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2017) (Judge Caproni) serves as another reminder of the procedural hurdles that must be overcome in order to assert an employment discrimination claim in federal court.

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, sued his former employer, Defendant Project Renewal, Inc. for race discrimination (in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 & the New York State Human Rights Law) and disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

First, the court dismissed plaintiff’s ADA claim because it was not administratively exhausted before the EEOC.

The law:

Before filing a Title VII or ADA suit in federal court, a plaintiff must file a timely charge of discrimination with the EEOC. To be timely, the EEOC charge must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act or within 300 days if the state has local administrative mechanisms for the redress of discrimination claims. … A plaintiff may raise a claim in district court that was not included in the EEOC complaint if the federal claim is “reasonably related” to the claim filed with the EEOC. A claim is considered reasonably related if the conduct complained of would fall within the scope of the EEOC investigation which can reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge that was made. In determining whether a claim is reasonably related, the district court focus[es] on the factual allegations made in the [EEOC] charge itself, describing the discriminatory conduct about which a plaintiff is grieving.The central question is whether the complaint filed with the EEOC gave that agency ‘adequate notice to investigate discrimination on both bases.

Applying the law, Judge Caproni held that plaintiff’s ADA claim was subject to dismissal because plaintiff did not include it in his charge, and it was not “reasonably related” to his race discrimination claim.

From the decision:

In his Administrative Complaint, which was dual-filed with the NYSDHR and the EEOC, Plaintiff did not allege disability discrimination: on the form complaint, he selected that he had been discriminated against on the basis of his “race/color or ethnicity.” Although disability appears on the form complaint as a possible type of discrimination, McCray did not check that box, nor did he allege any facts that might tend to show he was discriminated against based on a disability. The only reference to his health in the Administrative Complaint is an assertion that the discrimination he suffered at Project Renewal had “started affecting [his] health”; the Administrative Complaint is devoid of any allegation of a discriminatory act that was related to any disability that he might have.

Nor is the disability discrimination claim “reasonably related” to the race discrimination claim. None of the facts in the Administrative Complaint gives rise to an inference of disability discrimination. The only facts in the Administrative Complaint relating to any purportedly discriminatory behavior is that one or more of the clients at Project Renewal used racial epithets relative to McCray. Although perhaps relevant to a race discrimination claim, such an allegation is not relevant to a disability discrimination claim. Because McCray failed to allege any facts that may have given the EEOC “adequate notice” to investigate disability discrimination, McCray’s ADA claim is not “reasonably related” to the claims in the EEOC charge. Because McCray failed to exhaust his administrative remedies relative to his ADA claim, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss that claim is GRANTED.

Next, the court held that plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead race discrimination under Title VII, and therefore dismissed that claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

Specifically, it held that plaintiff failed to allege a prima facie case of race discrimination, since, inter alia: (1) the alleged racial “slurs are alleged to have come from Project Renewal’s clients—not from a Project Renewal employee, supervisor, or agent”; (2) “the two racial slurs [plaintiff] alleges, while unacceptable, do not plausibly allege a hostile work environment”, since “[f]or racist comments, slurs, and jokes to constitute a hostile work environment, there must be more than a few isolated incidents of racial enmity”; and (3) plaintiff “fail[ed] to allege any facts relating to any adverse employment action or decision” (namely “that he was not promoted to the staff position” or “that his transfer was in any way linked to his race”).

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