Prior to filing a claim of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, a claimant is required to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Title VII and the ADA require that a claimant not file a complaint in court for at least 180 days after filing the charge in order for the EEOC to conduct an investigation. It was unsettled, however, whether the statute of limitations on other tort claims arising out of the same circumstances as the discrimination was tolled or continued to run. The Second Circuit, which covers New York, Connecticut and Vermont, has now joined the Seventh and Ninth Circuit in holding that the statute of limitations is not tolled.
In Castagna v. Bill Luceno, et ano., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (13-0796), March 5, 2014, the Second Circuit held that the an EEOC filing “does not toll the limitations period for state law tort claims, even for those claims that arise out of the same factual circumstances as the discrimination alleged in the EEOC charge.” The plaintiffs argued that requiring a plaintiff to commence a civil action for a tort based upon the same facts alleged in an EEOC charge would constitute judicial inefficiency because the federal discrimination claims could not be brought in that action at the same time. The Second Circuit stated that a plaintiff in that situation could ask the court to stay proceedings until the EEOC completed its investigation and processing of the charge, at which time the discrimination claim could then be asserted in the lawsuit.
The Second Circuit’s decision is important to keep in mind because New York law imposes a one year statute of limitations on most intentional torts. If the plaintiff wants to preserve the right to assert the tort, it is likely that a lawsuit will need to be filed even while the charge is still with the EEOC.