Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Checking the boxes

In McLeod v. The Jewish Center of the Blind, the pro se plaintiff had brought a discrimination action, but had failed to check the boxes on the form discrimination complaint indicating that, in addition to seeking relief under Title VII, she was seeking relief under the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law.  Her state law claims were dismissed on the pleadings and her federal claims were dismissed on summary judgment.

The plaintiff appealed, and the Second Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded the case to the district court, holding that, setting aside the unchecked items on the form complaint, based on the plaintiff's handwritten allegations, the district court should have been aware that the plaintiff was asserting claims under New York State and New York City law.  The Court stated  that "our holding is rooted in our well-worn precedent concerning a district court’s obligation to liberally construe pro se submissions. We do not expand that obligation here, nor do we purport to task district courts with the responsibility of scouring obscure bodies of law in order to come up with novel claims on behalf of pro se litigants. Rather, we conclude that in this case, where McLeod’s factual allegations supported claims under the well-known antidiscrimination provisions of the NYSHRL and NYCHRL, our existing precedent required the district court to construe McLeod’s complaint as asserting claims under those laws, regardless of her failure to check the appropriate blank on a form complaint"

The decision in the case can be found here.

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