Second Circuit Weighs In On Tort Litigation During Pending EEOC Proceeding

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Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a plaintiff’s filing of a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) does not toll the statute of limitations for corresponding state-based tort claims, even if such claims arise out of the same common nucleus of facts.

In Castagna v. Luceno, — F.3d –, 2014 WL 840964 (2d Cir. Mar. 5, 2014), the plaintiff, Patricia Castagna, filed a charge with the EEOC against her former employer, Majestic Kitchens, Inc. (“Majestic”), and its majority owner, Bill Luceno (“Luceno”), alleging employment discrimination based on her gender.  The EEOC complaint was filed approximately 3 ½ months following Castagna’s July 9, 2008 resignation from Majestic.  After receiving a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC on August 14, 2009, Castagna proceeded to file a complaint in November 2009 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (the “Federal Complaint”), nearly a year and a half after her resignation.  The Federal Complaint asserted claims against Majestic and Luceno under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and also alleged several state-based tort claims including intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery (collectively, the “Tort Claims”).  The defendants subsequently moved to dismiss the Tort Claims as barred by New York’s one-year statute of limitations, and the Southern District Court granted their motion, dismissing the Tort Claims.  Castagna appealed, arguing that the statute of limitations on the Tort Claims was tolled as a result of her EEOC filing.

As a matter of first impression, the Second Circuit relied upon the rationale from the Courts of Appeals for the Seventh and Ninth Circuits to conclude, as a matter of law, that the commencement of an EEOC action does not toll the statute of limitations for state tort claims.  The Court declared that this holds true even, where here, Castagna’s tort claims arose out of the same alleged misconduct that formed the basis for her EEOC charge.  Essentially, the Second Circuit found that there was no evidence suggesting that Congress intended to provide claimants with the ability to delay filing state-based tort claims during a pending EEOC proceeding, and Castagna therefore never lost her “unfettered right” to pursue her tort claims during that time.

 


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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