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BIGGERS v. BROOKHAVEN-COMSEWOGUE SCHOOL DIST.

January 5, 2001

THERESA BIGGERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BROOKHAVEN-COMSEWOGUE UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

Apparently, this case presents an issue novel to the federal courts. In particular, this Court must consider whether a plaintiffs gender discrimination claim vindicates a public interest that would exempt it from the Notice of Claim requirement of New York Education Law section 3813. The plaintiff, Theresa Biggers ("Riggers" or the "plaintiffs") initiated this action against her former employer, Brookhaven-Comsewogue Union Free School District ("School District" or the "defendant"), on May 19, 2000, by filing a complaint alleging gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the New York Human Rights Law ("NYHRL"). Presently before the Court is the defendant's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs state-law claim on the ground that the plaintiff did not file a notice of claim within the 90-day period that is required by section 3813 of the New York Education Law, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Fed. R. Civ.P.").

I. BACKGROUND

In June 1993, the Board of Education for the defendant School District offered Biggers the position of "School Business Administrator" instead of Assistant Superintendent of Business. A School Business Administrator has the same duties and responsibilities as an Assistant Superintendent of Business, but receives a lower salary and fewer benefits. Superintendent Austen allegedly informed the plaintiff that the reason the Board of Education for the defendant School District did not offer the plaintiff the title Assistant Superintendent of Business was that she is female.

From June 1993 through January 7, 1994, Biggers' attorneys and the Board of Education entered into negotiations regarding the title, salary, and benefits of Bigger's potential position with the defendant. On January 7, 1994, the defendant informed the plaintiff that its June 1993 offer was no longer negotiable and that the Board of Education would not fill the position of "Assistant Superintendent of Business." The plaintiff alleges that in or about January 1994, Superintendent Austen again told Biggers that she did not receive the title, "Assistant Superintendent of Business," because she is a woman. It is further alleged that the defendant constructively discharged the plaintiff on or about April 15, 1994.

Four months later, on August 15, 1994, the plaintiff filed her charge of gender discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On February 22, 2000, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue.

The complaint alleges two claims for relief. The first claim asserts that the School District intentionally and wilfully discriminated against the plaintiff with regard to her employment, on the basis of her gender, in violation of Title VII. The second claim for relief asserts that the School District discriminated against the plaintiff on account of her gender in violation of the New York Human Rights Law ("NYHRL").

The defendant moves to dismiss the second claim on the ground that the plaintiff did not file a Notice of Claim within the ninety-day period required by the section 3813 of the New York Education Law.

II. DISCUSSION

Section 3813, subdivision 1, of the New York Education Law provides, in relevant part:

1. No action or special proceeding, for any cause whatever . . . shall be prosecuted or maintained against any school district, board of education, [or] board of cooperative educational services . . . or any officer of a school district, board of education, [or] board of cooperative educational services . . . unless it shall appear by and as an allegation in the complaint or necessary moving papers that a written verified claim upon which such action . . . is founded was presented to the governing body of said district within three months after the accrual of such claim, and that the . . . body having the power to adjust or pay said claim has neglected or refused to make an adjustment or payment.

Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals has carved out one exception to the notice requirement. The prerequisites of subdivision 1 of section 3813 apply only to those actions which seek the enforcement of private rights, as opposed to those actions that seek vindication of a public interest. See Union Free School Dist. No. 6 v. New York State Human Rights Appeal Board, 35 N.Y.2d 371, 379-80, 362 N.Y.S.2d 139, ...


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