NYS Human Rights Law Claims Fail Under Federal Pleading Standard

In Eng v. City of New York, 17-1308, 2017 WL 5438877 (2d Cir. Nov. 14, 2017) (Summary Order), the court affirmed the dismissal of, inter alia,[1]The court also affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s claims under the Equal Pay Act and the New York City Human Rights Law. plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims under the New York State Human Rights Law, since they did not meet the federal pleading standard.

The court rejected plaintiff’s argument that her claims were subject to the more lenient state-level pleading standard:

To make out a claim under the NYSHRL, a plaintiff must show that she was: (1) “a member of a protected class;” (2) “qualified for her position;” (3) “subjected to an adverse employment action;” and (4) “either terminated or treated differently under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.” Askin v. Dep’t of Educ. Of City of N.Y., 110 A.D.3d 621, 973 N.Y.S.2d 629, 630 (2013). Eng’s NYSHRL claims, brought in federal court, are subject to the federal pleading standard, and not the relaxed pleading standards of New York state courts. “[F]ederal courts are to apply state substantive law and federal procedural law. (Paragraphing altered.)

Applying the law, the court held that “[p]laintiff’s threadbare allegations do not give rise to a plausible inference of discrimination on the basis of age or gender”; her “only allegations are that she is a 58-year old woman who is paid less than a 57-year old man, a 54-year old man, and a 41-year old woman.” These allegations “alone cannot plausibly support an inference that discriminatory animus is the reason for the disparities in pay she alleges”; the court “cannot infer discrimination from thin air.”

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1. The court also affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s claims under the Equal Pay Act and the New York City Human Rights Law.
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