Retaliation Claims Dismissed; Generalized Complaint Was Not “Protected Activity”

In Taylor v. Health Research, Inc., No. 151848/2019, 2019 WL 5212862, 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 33051(U) (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Oct. 16, 2019), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s retaliation claims asserted under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

The court explained that “in order to make out a claim for retaliation under the State or City Human Rights Law, the complaint must allege that (1) the plaintiff participated in a protected activity known to defendant; (2) defendant took an action that disadvantaged plaintiff; and (3) a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse action.”

Applying the law to the facts, the court held that plaintiff failed to satisfy the “protected activity” element. Specifically:

Although she generally alleges that she complained to defendant regarding Mr. O’Donnell’s alleged mistreatment and her request to transfer to the DOH, such grievances do not constitute protected activity as she does not allege that her complaints referred to alleged discriminatory conduct or that she told defendant that she was being treated differently on account of her race.

In support of this conclusions, the court cited Forrest v. Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 NY3d 295 (2004) for the proposition that “filing grievances of generalized ‘harassment’ is insufficient to constitute a protected activity” and Fletcher v. Dakota, Inc., 99 A.D.3d 43 (1st Dept. 2012) as an example of protected activity not being found where a plaintiff’s complaint did not make any reference to race.