Retaliation Claim Against NYC Housing Authority Survives Summary Judgment

In Crump v. The New York City Housing Authority, No. 163138/2015, 2020 WL 5874852 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Oct. 02, 2020), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim that he was subject to retaliation (for complaining of discrimination and harassment based on his sexual orientation) in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law.

Here is the court’s summary of the “black letter law” regarding retaliation:

To prevail on a retaliation claim under the NYCHRL, plaintiffs must show that (1) they have engaged in protected activity, (2) their employer was aware that they participated in such activity, (3) they suffered an adverse employment action based upon their activity, and (4) there is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action. (Forrest v Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 NY3d 295, 313 [2004].) A causal connection between a protected activity and an adverse employment action can be inferred from evidence that the protected activity was followed closely by discriminatory treatment.

Applying the law, the court explained:

Plaintiff has introduced evidence that he repeatedly complained to his superiors about German’s assertedly harassing conduct, including complaints made at a meeting with several superiors in late April 2014. And it is undisputed that after the April 2014 meeting plaintiff received multiple counseling memorandums within a two-month span—some of which led to disciplinary charges at plaintiff’s first general trial that the hearing officer did not sustain. This court concludes that this evidence is sufficient to raise issues of fact on plaintiff’s retaliation claim.
*4 There is no merit to defendants’ contention that plaintiff’s retaliation claim fails because he has not introduced evidence of written complaints of discrimination made to others at NYCHA. A plaintiff need not have opposed discrimination in writing for a retaliation claim to survive, as long as the employer was aware of the plaintiff’s protected activity. (See Albunio v. City of NY, 16 NY3d 472, 479 [2011].) This court is also not persuaded by defendants’ argument that plaintiff failed to show a causal relationship between his complaints of discrimination and subsequent mistreatment by superiors at NYCHA—particularly in light of the close temporal proximity between the April 2014 meeting and a string of disciplinary write-ups.

The court concluded that – while defendants provided evidence that (if credited by a jury) “might indicate that plaintiff did not, in fact, complain of orientation-based harassment and discrimination against him; and that the various counseling memorandums received by plaintiff were entirely motivated by nondiscriminatory considerations” – such “evidence, measured against plaintiff’s conflicting testimony, raises a credibility question for the jury to answer.”

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