Disability Discrimination Claim Dismissed Against One Respondent as Time Barred; “Relation Back” Doctrine Inapplicable

In Matter of 130-10 Food Corp. v. New York State Div. of Human Rights,
2018 NY Slip Op 08123 (App. Div. 2nd Dept. Nov. 28, 2018), the court held that employment (disability) discrimination claim should be dismissed on statute-of-limitations grounds.

The court explained: “Pursuant to Executive Law § 297(5), a complainant seeking redress under the [New York State] Human Rights Law … through an administrative proceeding must file a complaint within one year after the alleged unlawful discriminatory practice. This provision is in the nature of a statute of limitations, and is mandatory[.]”

In this case, Food Corp. was added as a respondent in the administrative proceeding more than one year after the complainant’s employment was purportedly terminated on or about January 30, 2010.

The complainant also “failed to establish that the second amendment to the complaint, which added Food Corp. as a respondent, related back to the timely complaint filed against Trade Fair.”

Here is the law:

The party seeking the benefit of the relation-back doctrine must establish that ” (1) both claims arose out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence, (2) the new party is united in interest with the original defendant, and by reason of that relationship, can be charged with notice of the institution of the action and will not be prejudiced in maintaining his or her defense on the merits by virtue of the delayed, and otherwise stale, assertion of those claims against him or her, and (3) the new party knew or should have known that, but for a mistake by the plaintiff as to the identity of the proper parties, the action would have been timely commenced against him or her as well[.]

While the satisfaction of the first and third prongs of the relation-back test were satisfied, the second was not:

However, the complainant failed to satisfy the second prong of the relation-back test, because Food Corp. and Trade Fair were not united in interest. Respondents are “united in interest only when their interest in the subject-matter [of the proceeding] is such that [the respondents] stand or fall together and that judgment against one will similarly affect the other'” (Montalvo v Madjek, Inc., 131 AD3d 678, 679-680, quoting Prudential Ins. Co. v Stone, 270 NY 154, 159; see Xavier v RY Mgt. Co., Inc., 45 AD3d 677, 679). “[T]he question of unity of interest is to be determined from an examination of (1) the jural relationship of the parties whose interests are said to be united and (2) the nature of the claim asserted against them by the [complainant]” (Connell v Hayden, 83 AD2d 30, 42-43). Respondents are not united in interest if there is a possibility that [*3]the new party could have a defense different from that of the original party (see Mileski v MSC Indus. Direct Co., Inc., 138 AD3d 797, 800; Montalvo v Madjek, Inc., 131 AD3d at 680). Here, the Commissioner dismissed the second amended complaint insofar as asserted against Trade Fair on the grounds that the complainant never interacted with or took direction from Trade Fair’s employees, and that Trade Fair was not the complainant’s employer. In contrast, the Commissioner determined that Food Corp. was the complainant’s employer because Food Corp.’s personnel hired and fired the complainant and controlled the complainant’s daily workplace activities. Thus, the record makes clear that Food Corp.’s and Trade Fair’s interests in the administrative proceeding did not stand or fall together[.]

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