Discrimination Claims Survive Under the NYC Human Rights Law

In Isbell et al v. City of New York, 2018 WL 2389075 (S.D.N.Y., May 25, 2018), the court (inter alia) denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims under the NYC Human Rights Law (but granted their motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ discrimination claims under federal and state law). In so doing, the court highlights the relative breadth of the City law.

From the decision:

The Second Circuit has instructed that NYCHRL claims must be analyzed “separately and independently from any federal and state law claims.” Mihalik, 715 F.3d at 109. In addition, NYCHRL claims should be “construed liberally for the accomplishment of the uniquely broad and remedial purposes thereof.” Id. Indeed, “while courts may still dismiss truly insubstantial cases, even a single comment may be actionable in the proper context.” Id. at 113 (internal quotation marks omitted). With respect to discrimination claims, NYCHRL’s more permissive standard allows for liability to be “determined simply by the existence of differential treatment. To establish a gender [or race] discrimination claim under the NYCHRL, the plaintiff need only demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that she has been treated less well than other employees because of her gender [or race].” Id. at 110 (internal quotation marks omitted). It is of no matter that the challenged conduct is intangible. See id. Notably, this standard also renders claims brought under the NYCHRL incongruent with a typical hostile work environment analysis, leading some courts to address the analysis by explaining that to plead a hostile work environment claim under the NYCHRL, a plaintiff need only allege “the existence of unwanted gender-based [or race-based] conduct.” See, e.g., Bermudez, 783 F. Supp. 2d at 579 (internal quotation marks omitted). However, “district courts must be mindful that the NYCHRL is not a general civility code . . . plaintiff still bears the burden of showing that the conduct is caused by a discriminatory motive.” Mihalik, 715 F.3d at 110 (internal quotation marks omitted). Based on this permissive standard, Plaintiffs have alleged discrimination and hostile work environment claims under the NYCHRL, and I therefore deny Defendants’ motion to dismiss these claims.

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