Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pro Se Complaints Continue To Be Liberally Construed

McCloud v. Jewish Guild for the Blind, ___F.3d___(2d Cir. July 19, 2017), is an interesting case. In this case, plaintiff failed to check a box which indicated that she wished to bring a complaint under state law as well as under Title VII. State and local law provides that there can be individual liability while under Title VII, individuals cannot be held responsible. The court excused the pro se plaintiff's failure to check the appropriate box, reasoning:

 That McLeod used a form complaint provided by the district court’s pro se office and failed to check the appropriate blanks should not dictate a contrary result. As we have noted in analogous circumstances, “[t]he failure in a complaint to cite a statute, or to cite the correct one, in no way affects the merits The district court appropriately construed other aspects of McLeod’s complaint to raise the strongest arguments they suggested. When asked in the form complaint to identify the bases for defendants’ discriminatory conduct, McLeod checked only the box for “disability or perceived disability.” She did not check the boxes for “age” and “color,” but supplied information in the blanks corresponding to those categories. She also failed to check the box for “gender/sex” discrimination and did not supply any information in the blank corresponding to that category. The district court nonetheless construed her complaint to raise discrimination claims on the basis of all four categories, based on her handwritten factual allegations. In addition, the court amended McLeod’s caption to assert claims against JGB, as would be proper under Title VII, although McLeod did not name JGB as a defendant. We see no reason to distinguish McLeod’s apparent errors with respect to the source of her claims from these other errors and omissions, which the district court appropriately corrected on the basis of McLeod’s handwritten factual allegations to reflect the appropriate legal bases for her claims. Of course, if prior to construing McLeod’s complaint, the district court had specifically advised McLeod of her ability to seek recourse under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL and she had expressly disavowed any intention to assert claims under those bodies of law, this would be a different case. However, the district court construed McLeod’s complaint as not raising such claims without consulting her. . . . That principle carries particular force where a pro se litigant is involved. Accordingly, because  McLeod’s factual allegations suggested claims under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL, the district court was required to construe her complaint as asserting claims under those laws, even if she failed to check the appropriate blank. We note that our holding is rooted in our well-worn precedent concerning a district court’s obligation to liberally construe pro se submissions.

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2d Department Decision Illustrates More Favorable State Discrimination Standards

Kassapian v. City of New York , ____A.D.3d____(2d Dep't. Nov. 15, 2017), is brought to your attention for several reasons. The case co...