United States District Court, S.D. New York
January 15, 2004.
RUBEN VARGAS, Plaintiff, -v- BUCHBINDER & WARREN LLC, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: DENISE COTE, District Judge
OPINION AND ORDER
The defendant has moved to dismiss this action brought for violation of
the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et
seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"),
42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., on the ground that the plaintiff Ruben
Vargas ("Vargas") did not file an administrative complaint with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") within the 300 days required
by law. For the following reason, the motion is granted in part and
denied in part.
The following facts are taken from the complaint, the
amended complaint submitted in opposition to this motion, and other
documents submitted by the parties in connection with this motion. The
defendant has assumed the truth of the assertions in the complaint for
purposes of this motion practice.
Vargas was born on October 20, 1951. He began his employment with the
defendant on April 16, 1990. He worked as a doorman on the night shift,
providing security, announcing visitors, handling garbage removal, and
performing other tasks. In September 1999, Vargas complained to his union
delegate regarding the failure to provide him with a lunch break. On
October 5, 1999, the defendant agreed to pay every building employee
except Vargas compensation for the failure to provide them with a lunch
break. Vargas asserts that the failure to compensate him was due to
retaliation against him for being a whistle blower.
On November 6, 1999, Vargas filed harassment charges against the
building manager with his union. On November 16, Vargas requested a
transfer to the day shift. The request was denied on the 18th. That same
day, Vargas filed a complaint with his union regarding the denial. On
November 23, Vargas was given written notice that his employment had been
terminated as of November 21.
On November 23, 1999, Vargas filed a complaint with the National Labor
Relations Board ("NLRB") alleging that his firing was in retaliation for
grievances he had filed with his union. This claim was apparently denied.
On November 21, 2000, Vargas filed a complaint with the New
York State Division of Human Rights ("DHR") complaining of age
discrimination in violation of New York State law in connection with his
firing on November 23, 1999. This complaint indicated that he had
attempted to file it on November 16. There is no indication in the
document of any assertion of a violation of federal law.
On June 26, 2002, DHR issued its ruling that there was no probable
cause to believe that the defendant had engaged in age discrimination.
The notice advised Vargas that he could appeal the determination by
filing a petition within sixty days in state court, but that "a
complainant who seeks state judicial review and who receives an adverse
decision" may lose his right to proceed subsequently in federal court.
On June 26, 2002, Vargas filed a second complaint with the DHR,
claiming retaliation against him for his act of opposing discrimination.
He alleged that on December 11, 2000, an arbitrator had ordered that he
be reimbursed for the lunch breaks he had been denied, but that the
defendant had refused to date to do so. He asserted that the refusal was
in retaliation for his filing of the age discrimination complaint with
the DHR on November 21, 2000.
On February 25, 2003, the DHR denied the second complaint. It reported
that the defendant had computed that Vargas was owed $775.00, and had
offered to pay that amount if Vargas signed a release. Vargas refused to
sign a release, requesting instead that the DHR order the defendant to
pay him the money. The DHR
found no evidence of discrimination. In addition to the notice provided
with the June 26 ruling, this ruling also advised Vargas that his charge
was filed under federal law, and that he had the right to request EEOC
review by writing the EEOC within 15 days of his receipt of the February
25 ruling. It advised him that the EEOC would generally adopt the action
of the DHR.
On April 29, 2003, the EEOC adopted the DHR finding and issued a right
to sue letter. The parties have not submitted any document reflecting
when Vargas submitted a complaint to the EEOC.
On July 22, 2003, Vargas signed a request in this district to proceed
in forma pauperis. The application was granted on August 29, 2003. On
September 2, 2003, Vargas filed a complaint alleging a violation of the
ADEA based on retaliation against him for the complaints he made to his
union while he was employed by the defendant and based on the termination
of his employment.
On November 17, the defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for
failure to file a timely complaint with the EEOC. In his opposition to
the motion, filed on December 2, Vargas has included an amended
complaint, which adds a claim of discriminatory retaliation pursuant to
Title VII, for the defendant's failure to comply with the December 11,
2000 arbitration award for reimbursement of plaintiff's unused lunch
The ADEA protects workers over the age of forty by making it unlawful
for an employer to discharge an employee "because of such individual's
age." 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). To claim a violation of the ADEA in New
York, a complaint must be filed with the EEOC within 300 days of the
alleged discriminatory act. See 29 U.S.C. § 626 (d), 633 (b);
Lightfoot v. Union Carbide Corp., 110 F.3d 898, 906-07 (2d Cir. 1997).
The 300-day period effectively acts as a statute of limitations. Quinn
v. Green Tree Credit Corp., 159 F.3d 759, 765 (2d Cir. 1998) (Title
VII). Under a Work Sharing Agreement between the EEOC and the DHR, the
DHR has been designated as an agent of the EEOC for the receipt of
charges. Consequently, an ADEA claim filed with the DHR constitutes a
simultaneous filing with the EEOC. Ford v. Bernard Fineson Dev. Ctr.,
81 F.3d 304, 308 (2d Cir. 1996).
Vargas' first complaint was filed on November 21, 2000. The conduct at
issue in this complaint culminated with the termination of his employment
on November 23, 1999. Vargas' complaint was filed more than 300 days
after the last alleged discriminatory act. The complaint is untimely even
when measured against the attempted filing date of November 16, 2000.
Even if the filing was sufficient to invoke a violation of federal law,
the complaint is time barred.
Vargas' second complaint, filed on June 26, 2002, alleges that the
defendant failed to compensate him pursuant to the December 11, 2000
arbitration award in retaliation for his
complaint of age discrimination. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.;
Legnani v. Alitalia Linee Aeree Italians, S.P.A, 274 F.3d 683, 686 (2d
Cir. 2001) (addressing timeliness of retaliation claim). The defendant
asserts in a conclusory fashion that, since over 300 days had passed
between the termination of Vargas' employment and his filing of the
second complaint with the EEOC, this complaint is also time-barred. The
proper date for purposes of accrual, however, is not clear. At the very
least, the defendant incorrectly asserts that Vargas' claim began to
accrue on the date of the termination of his employment. This cannot be
the correct date, since it was not until the December 11 arbitration that
Vargas had an enforceable right against the defendant for back pay.
Furthermore, it is not certain when Vargas became aware that the
defendant would refuse to pay the award. Therefore, for purposes of this
motion, the Court must assume that Vargas' retaliation complaint was
timely and exhausted.
The defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint as time-barred is
granted as to the plaintiff's first complaint, to wit, that the
termination of his employment and conduct prior to that termination
violated the ADEA. The defendant's motion is denied as to the second
complaint, to wit, that the defendant retaliated against the plaintiff
for his act of filing an age discrimination complaint by refusing to
comply with an arbitrator's order to reimburse the plaintiff.
A scheduling order is issued today governing the further conduct of
pre-trial proceedings in this case.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.