It keeps going and going and going…..
When I learned of a new lawsuit filed in federal court yesterday by former CHRO Regional Manager Femi Bogle-Assegai arising from her termination back in April 2001, I couldn’t help but think of the cliched advertisement of the Energizer Bunny.
First, the quick background as described by the U.S. Court of Appeals – Second Circuit in a November 2006 decision:
Ms. Bogle Assegai served as Regional Manager at the CHRO for several years before her termination in the spring of 2001. In September 2001 — 186 days after she was notified of her termination — she filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging, among other things, race discrimination. There is no reference to her filing a similar claim at the CHRO. She received a right to sue letter from the EEOC and in December 2002, she filed a lawsuit in federal court.
The State moved for summary judgment on a variety of grounds including the fact that Ms. Bogle-Assegai missed the statute of limitations (or the deadline) for filing race discrimination claims, which was 180 days. The District Court granted the motion in a decision available here. Ms. Bogle-Assegai appealed.
At the Second Circuit, she claimed that a work-sharing agreement existed between the CHRO and the EEOC that should have extended the time period for filing discrimination claims (why a CHRO Regional Manager would not know about the existence or non-existence of the agreement is an unanswered question of the case). The EEOC denied the existence of such an agreement. The Second Circuit rejected such claims in a November 2006 decision found that Ms. Bogle-Assegai had not raised that issue before:
In sum, faced with a summary judgment motion expressly asserting that her charge had not been dually filed with the state agency and that the 300-day filing period therefore did not apply to her claims, Bogle-Assegai had every incentive and opportunity to contest that argument. She made no argument to the district court in opposition. And in arguing to this Court that the 300-day period is applicable, she has proffered no reason for her failure to make that argument in the district court and has pointed to no evidence that would support her factual premises. In the circumstances, appellate consideration of her unpreserved argument is unwarranted. We affirm the district court’s dismissal of Bogle-Assegai’s Title VII claims on the ground that her administrative charge was not timely filed.
She then filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. That petition was rejected earlier this year.
Under normal circumstances, that would end matter. But this story does not end there. Yesterday, Ms. Bogle-Assegai brought a new lawsuit against the state contending that her equal protection rights were violated. How so?
She contends first that the Second Circuit actually denied her first claim based on the state’s "affirmative statement that no work sharing agreement was in existence at the time of Plaintiff’s filing of her EEOC complaint". (Paragraph 16) Readers can decide whether this is accurate.
She then contends that based on a Freedom of Information Act request, she learned in November 2007 that the CHRO "continued to accept complaints and forward them to the EEOC with the notation that their action was ‘pursuant to the work sharing agreement’." (Paragraph 18.) She contends that she was "singled" out because her complaint was also not filed pursuant to the "work-sharing agreement".
It appears on first glance that the situation she alleges is different than the facts of her case. Here, Ms. Bogle-Assegai only filed with the EEOC, not the CHRO, at least according to the court decisions, so her analogy may fall flat. She also doesn’t actually provide a copy of an alleged agreement, only that there was a notation on a document about such an agreement.
Regardless, however, don’t be surprised if she ends up running up against another issue she had to address before: statute of limitations. Add to that the theories of collateral estoppel and res judicata grounds (which prevent parties from retrying the same claims or issues) and the outlook for this lawsuit remains cloudy indeed.
How long will it keep going? Stay tuned. But even Energizer batteries eventually run out of energy.