The Importance of Timely Action if You’ve Encountered Workplace Discrimination in New York

If you think you’ve been the target of illegal age discrimination in New York City, it’s extremely important that you get in touch with an experienced New York City age discrimination lawyer right away. That’s true because the costs of delaying are potentially catastrophic. If you miss the deadline for filing your complaint, then those responsible may completely avoid liability for that discrimination on the basis of the statute of limitations.

In connection with statutes of limitation and limitations periods, there’s also something called “tolling,” which possibly can mean that you have a longer window of time in which to sue. Knowing if tolling applies to your situation and, if so, what your specific deadline for filing is can be crucial to your success. This again illustrates the importance of having knowledgeable legal counsel on your side.

As an example, there’s S.G., a woman who, for many years, was the director of a senior center in Lower Manhattan. In 2017, her employer terminated her employment. The director, believing that the true reason for her termination was her age — she was in her late 60s — launched a civil lawsuit against her employer for age discrimination in violation of the New York State Human Rights Act and the New York City Human Rights Act.

The employer filed a motion for dismissal, which the trial court granted. According to the trial judge, the director had waited too long to sue, submitting her complaint after the permissible filing period had elapsed. The Appellate Division court, however, reversed that ruling, reviving the director’s case as a result.

New York statutory law says a person harmed by illegal discrimination in violation of the NYSHRL and/or the NYCHRL has three years to file their lawsuit. The law says that, for people harmed by impermissible employment discrimination, that three-year time period starts to run on “the date that an adverse employment determination is made and communicated to” the worker.

In New York, as is true in most other states, certain factors or events can have the effect of what the law calls “tolling” the limitations period, which effectively means stopping the deadline “clock” and giving that worker extra time in which to file.

Equitable Tolling, Statutory Tolling, and Tolling by Executive Order

One type is something called “equitable tolling.” Courts have described equitable tolling as extra time granted to “avoid inequitable circumstances” arising as a result of a party having been “prevented in some extraordinary way from exercising his rights.” Typically, a court will only grant a party’s request for equitable tolling in situations where that party “actively pursued” his case with “all due diligence” and who, in spite of that diligence, was still prevented from asserting his rights on a timely basis.

There are also matters where tolling arises as a result of statutory law. For example, filing an administrative complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the New York State Division of Human Rights may work to stop the deadline “clock.” That’s because New York City statutory law (specifically, NYC Administrative Code Section 8-502) says that “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” automatically tolls the three-year deadline period.

For the director, the key to her success was statutory tolling; namely, her filing an administrative complaint with the EEOC. That filing, the court explained, constituted “a simultaneous and automatic filing with the New York State Division of Human Rights (SDHR),” which triggered the automatic tolling provision of Section 8-502.

Additionally, even if the director’s EEOC filing hadn’t triggered tolling and made her complaint timely, Governor Cuomo’s executive orders issued during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic would have. The governor’s executive orders tolled lawsuits for a period of several months in 2020. Those extra months created by the executive orders were enough (when added to the original three-year period,) to make the director’s filing timely.

Most of us have heard the phrase “timing is everything.” In the matter of the illegal workplace discrimination you endured, there’s much more than timing that goes into a winning case. Timing can be everything, though, if you file your complaint after the statutory period for doing so has elapsed, as it may mean you’re forever prohibited from obtaining relief based on that discrimination. To ensure that this and other procedural requirements don’t undermine your case, look to the skilled New York age discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates, where we provide our clients with the diligent, detail-oriented, and effective representation they deserve. To find out more, contact us online or at (866) 229-9441 to set up a free and confidential consultation today.

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