May 03, 2022

Employee's complaint alleging constructive dismissal and violation of the Freedom of Information Law dismissed

Plaintiff was employed by the New York City Department of Transportation [DOT] in 1997. In 2014 he resigned from his position and in 2017 commenced this action alleging that [1] he had been constructively discharged from his employment by DOT as the result of his reporting "other employees' misconduct," and [2] that the City of New York had failed to respond to his request to disclose certain records in violation of New York State's Freedom of Information Law [FOIL].

Supreme Court denied DOT's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's causes of action and DOT appealed. The Appellate Division reversed the lower court's order "on the law."

Addressing Plaintiff's complaint alleging constructive dismissal, the Appellate Division, citing Golston-Green v City of New York, 184 AD3d 24, explained that an "employee is constructively discharged when her or his employer, rather than discharging the plaintiff directly, deliberately created working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable person in the plaintiff's position would have felt compelled to resign."

Here, however, the Appellate Division, "accepting the facts as alleged to be true, and according the [Plaintiff] the benefit of every possible favorable inference," opined that Plaintiff's complaint "fails to state a cause of action alleging constructive discharge, as the allegations are either vague and conclusory" or involve events that allegedly occurred after the Plaintiff had resigned from DOT.

Addressing Plaintiff's complaints contending that New York City had violated FOIL, the Appellate Division said that a person alleging the denial of requested information within the meaning of Public Officers Law §89(4)(a), "must appeal the denial in writing to the head of the entity or other designated person within 30 days." Finding that Plaintiff did not submit an appeal within 30 days of the alleged denial, the Appellate Division said that Plaintiff had "failed to exhaust his administrative remedies" and because of this failure "could not resort to a judicial forum to gain relief."

Accordingly, the Appellate Division held that Supreme Court should have granted those branches of the City's motion seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's causes of action to recover damages for constructive discharge and to compel disclosure of certain records pursuant to FOIL.

Click HERE to access the Appellate Division's decision posted on the Internet.

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