Workplace Lawsuits Go Further in This New York Court

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By Patrick Dorrian

Companies facing federal employment discrimination lawsuits in New York City’s southern outer boroughs and Long Island have a tougher time getting the cases tossed early than they do other types of lawsuits.

Federal judges in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island, N.Y., are less likely to dismiss employment cases that are in the very early stages of litigation than they are other types of cases, research by Bloomberg Law shows. But that changes when companies seek dismissal after the parties have shared evidence. The Eastern District of New York has a jurisdiction covering some 8 million people and is home to a growing tech hub that includes the headquarters for Kickstarter, Etsy, and Vice Media.

At issue are two common procedural methods defendants employ to get cases thrown out—a motion to dismiss, filed right away, that says the lawsuit itself is baseless, and a motion for summary judgment, filed after the parties have exchanged evidence.

How parties fare on such motions may be the tipping point in how employment or other litigation turns out. A quick win by an employer may cause a worker or other party suing to reevaluate whether it’s worthwhile to continue pursuing the case. An early victory by a worker or other plaintiff, however, could prompt the employer to reexamine how much it’s willing to pay to settle the case before the sides engage in an expensive exchange of evidence.

The findings are based on a review of rulings by judges with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York who decided at least one dismissal or summary judgment motion this year. The lion’s share of these types of motions are brought by parties defending against lawsuits. But plaintiffs, including employees, sometimes also seek summary judgment and—rarer still—early dismissal of a case.

Judges on the New York court dismiss cases outright more than half the time (53.4 percent) when asked at the early stages of litigation. But lawsuits involving issues of employment law tend to fare better, getting an early dismissal 48.9 percent of the time. That means workers who sue their employer have better than 50/50 odds of getting to the discovery stage, where the parties have to turn over documentary and other evidence, with at least some claims intact.

That doesn’t guarantee success for workers, however. Judges in the New York court are more likely to dismiss an employment-related case in its entirety after the evidence is exchanged and the parties are ready to proceed to trial. Lawsuits get completely tossed at this later, summary judgment stage 56.7 percent of the time in employment cases, but at a lower rate (52 percent of the time) in all cases.

Individual Judges in Employment Cases

Individually, the rate of dismissal varied widely between judges.

Judge Carol Bagley-Amon was most likely to fully grant motions to dismiss in the early stages of employment cases, at 82.4 percent of the time. Judge Raymond J. Dearie was the least likely to do so, granting motions to dismiss in employment cases just 17.6 percent of the time.

For summary judgment motions—to dismiss a case after the exchange of evidence—Judge Allyne R. Ross set the pace, granting summary judgment in 91.7 percent of employment cases. The Eastern District of New York judge with the lowest rate—at 34.3 percent—was Judge Pamela K. Chen.

Looking for more analytics on U.S. courts? Watch in coming weeks for further reporting on other districts across the country or try Bloomberg Law’s Litigation Analytics.

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