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Torres v. Ciele Partners L.P.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 26, 2017

AURELIO TORRES, Plaintiff,
v.
CIELE PARTNERS L.P. d/b/a TRATTORIA DELL'ARTE and THE FIREMAN GROUP CAFÉ CONCEPTS, INC. d/b/a THE FIREMAN HOSPITALITY GROUP, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KATHERINE POLK FAILLA United States District Judge

         At the heart of this Opinion is a simple question: When did Plaintiff Aurelio Torres file his Complaint?[1] This Court's records supply one answer - November 1, 2016. But Plaintiff insists that he filed the Complaint one day sooner, on October 31, 2016.

         The Complaint's filing date is a dispositive issue in this case. In his Complaint's First and Second Claims for Relief, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Ciele Partners L.P. and The Fireman Group Café Concepts, Inc. (together, “Defendants”) violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 (“Title VII”). And in his Ninth Claim for Relief, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (the “ADEA”). Plaintiff first sought redress for these alleged wrongs by filing a charge of discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”). On July 28, 2016, the EEOC mailed to Plaintiff a letter stating that it would not be pursuing his case and notifying Plaintiff of his right to sue Defendants (the “Right to Sue Letter”). Plaintiff received the Right to Sue Letter on August 1, 2016. The parties agree that Plaintiff needed to file his Complaint within 90 days of receiving the Right to Sue Letter - i.e., on or before October 31, 2016 - in order for his Title VII and ADEA claims to be timely.[2]

         Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's First, Second, and Ninth Claims for Relief, arguing that all three claims are time-barred because Plaintiff filed his Complaint on November 1. Because Defendants and Plaintiff submitted documentary evidence in support of their motion to dismiss and opposition, respectively, the Court converted Defendants' motion to dismiss into a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. And because the undisputed facts of this case establish that Plaintiff filed his Complaint on November 1, not October 31, the Court grants Defendants' motion and dismisses Plaintiff's First, Second, and Ninth Claims for Relief.

         BACKGROUND[3]

         A. Factual Background

         Defendants operate Trattoria Dell'Arte, a restaurant in New York City. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-10). Plaintiff began working at the restaurant in 1988, and continued working there as a cook and sous-chef until September 11, 2014, when he was terminated. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-15, 29-31). In July 2015, Plaintiff filed with the EEOC a charge claiming that he suffered discrimination and retaliation during his time at Trattoria Dell'Arte. (Id. at ¶ 5).

         On July 28, 2016, the EEOC mailed the Right to Sue Letter to Plaintiff. (Right to Sue Letter 1). Enclosed with the letter was a “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” form, which, in a section titled “Notice of Suit Rights, ” stated that if Plaintiff wished to sue Defendants under Title VII or the ADEA, his “lawsuit must be filed WITHIN 90 DAYS of [his] receipt of th[e] notice.” (Id. at 2; see also Id. at 3 (same)). Plaintiff received the Right to Sue Letter on August 1, 2016. (Pl. Letter Pre-Motion Letter Response 3; Pl. Opp. 1).

         The parties agree that Plaintiff needed to file his Complaint on or before October 31, 2016, in order for his Title VII and ADEA claims to be timely. (1/12/17 Tr. 2; Pl. Opp. 7). Plaintiff contends that he met this deadline. (See, e.g., Pl. Pre-Motion Letter Response 3 (“Plaintiff filed a lawsuit with this Court by and through its ECF system on October 31, 2016.”); Pl. Opp. 7 (“[T]his action was filed on October 31, 2016.”); id. at 9 (“[T]he Complaint was timely filed (i.e., ‘delivered') to the Clerk on October 31, 2016[.]”)).

         But Plaintiff also concedes that his Complaint “was not uploaded into the CM/ECF system on October 31, 2016.” (Pl. Pre-Motion Letter Response 3 (emphasis added); accord Pl. Opp. 7). And the parties have introduced several documents that corroborate Plaintiff's concession.

         On October 31, 2016, at 4:53 p.m., Plaintiff received an automated email from “Pay.gov” confirming that he had paid the $400.00 filing fee necessary to initiate a civil action in this District. (10/31/16 Payment E-Mail; see also 1/12/17 Tr. 4 (Plaintiff recalling that he attempted to upload Complaint “at 4:50-something”)). But at 10:33 a.m. the following day - November 1, 2016 - Plaintiff received via e-mail an automated Notice of Electronic Filing (the “November 1 Notice of Electronic Filing”) “generated by” this Court's “CM/ECF system.” (11/1/16 Notice of Electronic Filing). It stated, in relevant part:

NOTICE TO ATTORNEY TO FILE INITIAL PLEADING. Notice to Attorney Victor Hugo Saldarriaga to electronically file the initial pleading in this case. Failure to file the initial pleading may result in the dismissal of the case pursuant to Standing Order 15-mc-00131. Initial Pleading due by 11/7/2016.

(Id.). The first entry on this case's docket contains an identical message; this entry is also dated November 1, 2016. (Docket 2). A slightly different message, however, appears at the top of this case's docket: “Date Filed: 10/31/2016.” (Id. at 1; see also 1/12/17 Tr. 5-6 (discussing “Date Filed” message at top of docket)).

         After consulting with the Court's ECF Help Desk, Plaintiff was able to upload his Complaint to the Court's CM/ECF system on November 1, 2016. (Docket 2; Pl. Opp. 5).

         B. ...


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