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Gonzalez v. Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Llp

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 30, 2014

SORAYA ROJAS GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
WEIL, GOTSHAL & MANGES, LLP; BARBARA SMITH; KEVIN HAGGERTY; KATHY ORTIZ; and TYRA BOWENS, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

WILLIAM F. KUNTZ, II, District Judge.

Plaintiff Soraya Rojas Gonzalez, prose, brings this Complaint alleging that the Defendants, Weil Gotshal & Manges, LLP ("Weil Gotshal") and four individual Defendants, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") by failing to accommodate her disability. Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint arguing that Plaintiff's claim is procedurally flawed and time-barred because Plaintiff failed to file her EEOC complaint within 300 days of the last alleged discriminatory act. This Court agrees. Plaintiff's Complaint is time-barred because of her failure to file a timely complaint with the EEOC. Furthermore, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that the Court should invoke the doctrine of equitable tolling. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Soraya Rojas Gonzalez ("Plaintiff'), a former employee in Weil Gotshal's Accounting Department, filed her federal Complaint on a court-supplied pro se form on September 4, 2013 alleging that Defendants violated the ADA. (Compl. at 1). Plaintiff checked off the box for "failure to accommodate [her] disability" and wrote "failure to prevent harassment and aggression toward [her], not relocating" as the discriminatory conduct suffered. ( Id. at 3). Plaintiff alleges that the discriminatory acts took place from March 2010 to July 2010 and October 2010 to September 2011.[1] ( Id. ) Plaintiff's alleged disabilities are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety/panic. ( Id. )

Plaintiff's handwritten narrative of events states that she was subject to discrimination, harassment, and intimidation by Defendant Tyra Bowens, a Weil Gotshal co-worker. ( Id. at 4). Plaintiff alleges that she was suffering from mental health issues because of her abusive father's passing. ( Id. at 5). Plaintiff further alleges that she suffered a severe anxiety attack because of Ms. Sowens's harassment and intimidation. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that Weil Gotshal did nothing in response to her complaints about Ms. Bowens except to offer Plaintiff two to three months of salary while she looked for another job. ( Id. ) Plaintiff argues that this was akin to "blaming [her] for Tyra Sowens's behavior." ( Id. )

Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Bowens's aggression and intimidation were taking a toll on her mental health and Weil Gotshal allowed the conduct to occur. ( Id. at 5). Plaintiff alleges that Weil Gotshal was aware that her psychiatrist recommended that she could no longer work at her current location, but that the firm neither transferred her nor allowed her to work from home. ( Id. at 6). Plaintiff alleges that this constituted a failure to accommodate her disability and claims that Weil Gotshal was negligent for allowing her to be subject to "discrimination, harassment and intimidation." ( Id. 6-7).

Plaintiff twice took disability leave from Weil Gotshal because of her conditions. The second leave commenced on September 7, 2011 and Plaintiff has not returned to the firm since. ( Id. ) Plaintiff filed a complaint with the NYCCHR (or the "Commission") on September 4, 2012, which was forwarded/dual-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on the same date. (Affirmation of Louis P. DiLorenzo ("Aff."), Ex. 2). The NYCCHR dismissed Plaintiffs claim, finding that she failed to file her complaint within one year of the last alleged discriminatory act, as required by the Commission. (Aff., Ex. 3 at 2). Furthermore, the Commission noted that even if the claim had been timely, it would have nonetheless failed on the merits. ( Id. ) On July 5, 2013, the Commissioner/Chair of the NYCCHR affirmed the dismissal. (Aff., Ex. 4). On August 13, 2013, the EEOC adopted the findings of the NYCHHR and provided Plaintiff with her right to sue letter. (Aff., Ex. 5). Plaintiff brought this action in federal court on September 4, 2013 suing Weil Gotshal and the individual Defendants, current and former Weil Gotshal employees, for violating her rights under the ADA. (Compl. at 1). Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint on January 9, 2014 arguing that the claim is time-barred because of Plaintiffs failure to bring an EEOC complaint within 300 days of the last alleged discriminatory act. This Court held oral argument on April 25, 2014.

Plaintiff has continually responded to Defendants' allegations that her claim is time-barred by recounting her interaction with the NYCCHR employee with whom she spoke on September 4, 2012-the day she filed her complaint with the Commission. Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Andrew Sonpron, Jr. of the NYCCHR told her that she had "barely made the date" for filing her NYCCHR complaint and that his supervisor confirmed that her claim was timely. (Aff., Ex. 6). In her papers, Plaintiff continues to assert that any procedural deficiency is the fault of the NYCCHR employees and that "they should be held liable NOT [Plaintiff.]" (Pl.'s Br. in Opp. at 2).

ANALYSIS

I. Plaintiff's ADA Claim is Time-Barred

In order to bring a lawsuit alleging unlawful employment practices in New York federal court, a plaintiff must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days of the last alleged unlawful employment action. Parks v. NY. City Dep't of Corr., 253 F.Appx. 141, 143 (2d Cir. 2007); see also Hoffman v. Williamsville Sch. Dist., 443 F.Appx. 647, 649 (2d Cir. 2011) (applying the 300 day EEOC complaint rule to ADA claims); Cobian v. New York City, 23 F.Appx. 82, 83 (2d Cir. 2001) (same); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). "Where a plaintiff fails to file a timely charge with the EEOC, either directly or through an authorized state or local agency, the federal complaint is time-barred." Parks, 253 F.Appx. at 143 (citing Ford v. Bernard Fineson Dev. Ctr., 81 F.3d 304, 307 (2d Cir. 1996)).

Here, the last alleged date of discriminatory treatment was in either August 2011, (Aff., Ex. 2 at ¶ 14), or September 2011, (Compl. at 3). Plaintiff requested time off work for disability leave, and was granted disability leave on September 7, 2011. (Compl. at 6). She has not returned to work since, (id), and did not file her NYCCHR/EEOC complaint until September 4, 2012, (Aff., Ex. 2 at 3). Reading the Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, even if the last discriminatory act occurred on Plaintiffs final day of work, September 7, 2011, her EEOC complaint would still be time-barred by more than 60 days.[2] See Lloyd v. NY. Botanical Garden, No. 03-Civ.-7557, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49066, at *12 (S.D.N.Y. July 6, 2006) (Jones, J.) (finding a claim time-barred under the ADA when EEOC complaint was not brought until more than a year after the plaintiff took a leave of absence). As no discriminatory treatment could have occurred after September 7, 2011, Plaintiff was required to bring her EEOC complaint within 300 days of that date. Predun v. Shoreham-Wading River Sch. Dist., 489 F.Supp.2d 223, 227 (E.D.N.Y. 2007) (Wexler, J.) ("Failure to file an administrative charge with the EEOC within the 300 days extinguishes the [federal ADA] claim and prohibits recovery."). Accordingly, Plaintiff is time-barred from brining her ADA claim in federal court.

II. Plaintiff is Not Entitled to Equitable Tolling

Plaintiff responds to the motion to dismiss arguing that: (I) her PTSD prevented her from filing a timely claim; and (2) NYCCHR workers told her that she had filed her claim in time. Defendants read these arguments as a request for equitable tolling, (Def.'s Reply Br. at 2), ...


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