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PIERRE v. CHEMICAL BANK

March 13, 1997

LUC R. PIERRE, Plaintiff, against CHEMICAL BANK, STANLEY BROITMAN, JULIE GINSBERG, LINDA SANCHEZ & RICHARD SHAPIRO, Defendants


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINSTEIN

 Weinstein, Senior District Judge:

 I. Introduction

 Plaintiff alleges denial of his right to equal employment opportunity while working at Chemical Bank. N.Y.S. Human Rights Law, Executive Law § 296. Defendants move for summary judgment. Only one matter warrants discussion--their contention that filing a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights constituted a binding election not to sue even though the City Commission was not competent to hear the case. This issue appears to be a matter of first impression.

 No election of remedies took place because the City Commission was without subject matter jurisdiction. As a tribunal without competence, an application to it had no jurisdictional effect.

 II. Facts

 All alleged discriminatory activity occurred in Nassau County. Plaintiff, appearing pro se, initially filed an employment discrimination complaint drafted by a staff member of the City Commission. The City Commission granted defendants' motion dismissing plaintiff's charge on the ground of lack of "subject matter jurisdiction" on June 15, 1994. On June 20, 1994, plaintiff, then represented by counsel, commenced the instant action in New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County. Defendants removed the action to this Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

 III. Law

 Section 297 of the New York Executive Law provides the procedure for filing a complaint based on an unlawful discriminatory practice described in section 296. The doctrine of election of remedies is embodied in New York Executive Law section 292(9). It states:

 
Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an unlawful discriminatory practice shall have a cause of action in any court of appropriate jurisdiction . . . unless such person had filed a complaint . . . with any local commission on human rights.

 . . .

 Once a plaintiff has elected an administrative remedy by filing a complaint with the City Commission subsequent judicial action based on the same incident is barred unless the administrative proceedings were terminated for "administrative convenience." N.Y. Executive Law section 297(9).

 The purpose of providing administrative remedies is to reduce the case load on the judicial system. See, e.g., Chachra v. Katharine Gibbs School 828 F. Supp. 176, 178 (E.D.N.Y. 1993) ("the entire purpose of providing administrative remedies is to reduce the burdens on the state and federal court systems from the numerous discrimination claims that are filed each year"). It is for that reason that a subsequent application to the courts is barred.

 Defendants argue that summary judgment should be granted because plaintiff's complaint was not dismissed as a result of administrative convenience, but for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. They rely on Moodie v. Federal Reserve Bank of New York 58 F.3d 879 (2d Cir.1995). Moodie held that an employee's election to seek state administrative remedies before seeking redress in court deprives federal and state courts of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to New York Executive Law section 297(9). Moodie filed an employment discrimination complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. The State Division dismissed the complaint because it lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Subsequently Moodie filed a complaint in federal court based on the same incident. His ...


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