In Lebowitz v. N.Y. City Dep’t of Educ., No. 15-cv-2890, 2017 WL 1232472 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2017), the court held that plaintiffs – former Sheepshead Bay High School math teachers – sufficiently alleged age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.The court granted in part and denied in part plaintiff’s motions and addressed many issues, including age discrimination, disability discrimination, national origin discrimination, FMLA retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress; it also issued rulings that apply to some, but not all, plaintiffs.
As to plaintiffs’ ADEA and NYS Human Rights Law claims, the court held that only some of the alleged actions taken by defendant were actionable “adverse employment actions”. For example, the court concluded that negative evaluations of two teachers were sufficiently alleged as adverse employment actions because they allegedly “actually led to concrete adverse consequences.” The same was not so for another plaintiff, who “does not allege that he ever applied for other employment, rendering speculative his claim that he was denied other potential work opportunities.”
As to the element of discriminatory motive, the court explained:
To bring a successful claim of age discrimination under the ADEA, a plaintiff must demonstrate, among other things, that age was the “but-for” cause of the challenged action. … [A]t the motion to dismiss stage, a complaint need not allege that age was the employer’s only consideration, but rather that the adverse employment action would not have occurred without it.
Plaintiffs met this standard:
Plaintiffs make a number of statements that plausibly allege that age was the but-for cause behind Reznikov and Black’s ATR status. The Complaint contains numerous allegations of Izzo stating that she wanted to rid the school of senior teachers. For example, Plaintiffs allege that Izzo stated, “We don’t want senior teachers here with your stale methods. I just don’t want any senior teachers in this department and this school, period.” (Compl. ¶ 60.) Similarly, when Reznikov asked Izzo when the teachers would receive their Regents exam preparation books for their classes, Izzo responded, “You are not going to get them. When all the senior teachers are gone next year, Ms. Castillo will get the books.” (Id. ¶ 84.) Black alleges that he received a negative evaluation with respect to the physical appearance of a classroom that he shared with a younger teacher, Mr. Vidal. (Id. ¶ 131.) Despite sharing the same space with Black, Mr. Vidal did not receive a negative evaluation with respect to the classroom’s appearance. (Id.) Although these allegations do not rise to the level of adverse employment actions, they nevertheless support an inference of discrimination. See Littlejohn, 795 F.3d at 312 (“An inference of discrimination can rise from circumstances including, but not limited to … invidious comments about others in the employee’s protected group[ ] or the more favorable treatment of employees not in the protected group….” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Accordingly, Plaintiffs have sufficiently pleaded a claim of age discrimination under the ADEA and NYSHRL as to Black and Reznikov.
As to plaintiffs’ NYC Human Rights Law claim, the court explained:
To state a hostile work environment claim under the NYCHRL, a plaintiff need only allege differential treatment of any degree based on a discriminatory motive. Awad, 2014 WL 1814114, at *7 (citing Gorokhovsky v. N.Y.S. Hous. Auth., 552 Fed.Appx. 100, 102 (2d Cir. 2014)). “Even a single comment may be actionable under [the] NYCHRL ‘in appropriate circumstances.’ ” Id. (quoting Gorokhovsky 552 Fed.Appx. at 102.) A claim under the NYCHRL “should only be dismissed if plaintiff does not allege behavior by defendants that ‘cannot be said to fall within the broad range of conduct that falls between severe and pervasive on the one hand and a petty slight or trivial inconvenience on the other.’ ” Id. (quoting Hernandez, 957 N.Y.S.2d at 58-59). Plaintiffs repeatedly allege that they were treated differently from younger teachers because of their age, including being evaluated under less advantageous circumstances, having access to fewer resources at the school, being subjected to insult and ridicule, and receiving poorer evaluations. Such differential treatment is more than a “petty slight or trivial inconvenience.” Accordingly, the Court will allow Plaintiffs’ claims of hostile work environment under the NYCHRL to proceed.
|↩1||The court granted in part and denied in part plaintiff’s motions and addressed many issues, including age discrimination, disability discrimination, national origin discrimination, FMLA retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress; it also issued rulings that apply to some, but not all, plaintiffs.|