Court Clarifies Standard for “Adverse Employment Action” Under the NYC Human Rights Law

In Golston-Green v. City of New York, et al., No. 2016-02462, 28117/09, 2020 N.Y. Slip Op. 02768, 2020 WL 2462411 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept., May 13, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s claim of discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law.

This decision is instructive as to the differences between the New York State Human Rights Law, and the (broader) New York City Human Rights Law regarding (as relevant to this aspect of the decision) what constitutes an “adverse employment action”:

We hold that under the City Human Rights Law, in order to demonstrate liability, a plaintiff need not establish that she or he was subjected to a “materially adverse” change to terms and conditions of employment, but only that she or he was subject to an unfavorable change or treated less well than other employees on the basis of a protected characteristic.

Applying this standard to the plaintiff’s claims, we find that each of the four adverse employment actions alleged by the plaintiff constitutes actionable unfavorable treatment under the City Human Rights Law—a change in geographical assignment, a change to less favorable days off, not receiving relief in order to take breaks, and a change to a less favorable work schedule. [Citations omitted.]

Notwithstanding this determination, the court held that defendants were entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff’s race and gender-based discrimination claims, finding that there was no indication that the alleged adverse actions were imposed due to plaintiff’s membership in the relevant protected classes.