Filing of EEOC Charge Tolls Statute of Limitations Under NYS and NYC Human Rights Laws, Court Holds

In Shojae v. Harlem Hospital Center et al, 2020 WL 1862293 (S.D.N.Y. April 14, 2020), the court held that the filing of a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) tolls the statute of limitations under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

In this employment discrimination case, plaintiff – a Muslim Persian female pharmacist – alleged, inter alia, that prior to July 7, 2012, she was subjected to numerous acts of discrimination by defendant, including being told that her asking for her promised signing bonus was “improper behavior for a woman.”

Plaintiff conceded that, absent tolling, any claims arising from events prior to July 7, 2012 — three years prior to the filing of Plaintiff’s complaint — would fall outside the 3-year statute of limitations applicable to plaintiff’s state and city law claims. Plaintiff argued, however, that her timely filing of a charge with the EEOC tolled her NYCHRL claims from the time of the filing to the issuance by the EEOC of a right to sue letter.

Citing to its own prior decisions, the court agreed. From the decision:

[T]wo different legal provisions … support the tolling of the applicable statute of limitations for municipal law claims during the pendency of a complaint filed with the EEOC. First, in the State context, pursuant to a work-sharing agreement between the New York State Department of Human Rights [ ] and the EEOC, charges filed with the EEOC are automatically considered dual-filed with the State … . Thus, [a plaintiff’s] EEOC complaint here would be deemed filed with the [New York State Department of Human Rights]. Second, the New York City Administrative Code states that “[u]pon the filing of a complaint with the city commission on human rights or the state division of human rights and during the pendency of such complaint and any court proceeding for review of the dismissal of such complaint, such three year limitations period shall be tolled. … As a result, although the New York City Commission on Human Rights does not have its own work-sharing agreement with the EEOC …, the interaction of these two provisions … indicates that a charge[] filed with the EEOC would also toll the statute of limitations period for NYCHRL claims.

Applying the law, the court held:

Plaintiff’s NYCHRL claims arising from events prior to July 7, 2012, were timely filed. Plaintiff alleges discriminatory acts from at least March 2011. Plaintiff filed her charge with the EEOC on November 20, 2013, 995 days from March 1, 2011. The EEOC issued its Notice of Right to Sue letter on April 12, 2015, tolling Plaintiff’s claims for 508 days. Plaintiff filed her complaint on July 7, 2015, 86 days after the issuance of the right to sue letter. Taking the tolling provision into account, the alleged discriminatory acts took place 1,081 days prior to the filing of the instant action, within the three-year limitations period. [Citations omitted.]

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