Federal Age Discrimination Claim Dismissed Due to Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

In Ulinski v. Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Local 56, 2020 WL 6940994 (EDNY Nov. 24, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s claim for age discrimination asserted under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The specific basis for dismissal was plaintiff’s failure to “exhaust his administrative remedies.” The court explained this obligation, and its relevance in this case, as follows:

A plaintiff may not commence a civil action under the ADEA “until 60 days after a charge alleging unlawful discrimination has been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.” 29 U.S.C. § 626 (d)(1); see also Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 82–83 (2d Cir. 2001) (“A plaintiff may bring an employment discrimination action under Title VII or the ADEA only after filing a timely charge with the EEOC or with a State or local agency with authority to grant or seek relief from such practice.” (internal quotations omitted)). The Second Circuit has made clear that exhaustion of administrative remedies is not a “jurisdictional requirement” but rather “a precondition to bringing such claims in federal court” that is “subject to equitable defenses.” Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 384 (2d Cir. 2015) (applying equitable defenses to Title VII); see also Miller v. Int’l Tel. & Tel. Corp., 755 F.2d 20, 24–-27 (2d Cir. 1985) (applying equitable defenses to ADEA); Crossman v. Crosson, 905 F. Supp. 90, 93 (E.D.N.Y. 1995), aff’d, 101 F.3d 684 (2d Cir. 1996) (“[I]n view of the similarities between Title VII and the ADEA, a number of courts have applied Title VII jurisprudence to guide their interpretation of analogous ADEA provisions.”). An equitable defense lies “[w]hen an agency has previously taken a firm stand against a plaintiff’s position[;]” or where “recent allegations of discrimination [are] reasonably related to the discrimination about which [the plaintiff] had filed an earlier charge with the EEOC[.]” Fowlkes, 790 F.3d at 386–87 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Therefore, the court held that since plaintiff “does not allege that he filed an EEOC charge claiming age discrimination” or “allege any facts to support a basis to excuse his failure to exhaust,” his ADEA claim must be dismissed.

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