Haitian Man’s Discrimination and Retaliation Claims Survive Dismissal Against the City of New York

In Laguerre v. The City of New York, No. 153958/2020, 2021 WL 2165567, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 31810(U) (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County May 27, 2021), the court denied defendants’ motion (in part) to dismiss plaintiff’s race discrimination (failure to promote) and retaliation claims asserted under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Here are the facts, as summarized by the court:

Plaintiff, is a black male born in Haiti and now 60 years of age, has been an employee with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) since 1986. Plaintiff is currently a project manager and has maintained that title since 1998.

On April 27, 2018, plaintiff filed a complaint with the SDHR alleging discrimination. On October 31, 2018, the SDHR issued a determination and order finding that there was no probable cause. After the SDHR complaint was filed, plaintiff alleges to have been passed over for promotion 4 times The promotional positions and dates are as follows: Senior Project Manager in August 2018, Senior Project Manager in December 2018, PDF Deputy Director during the “Summer of 2018”, and Deputy Director of In Rem in September 2019; these allegations were not part of the SDHR complaint.

Plaintiff claims that three of these promotional opportunities were not posted, and the only position that was posted plaintiff did not receive an interview. Of the 4 individuals who received the promotions, instead of plaintiff, two were not Black, while it would appear that all 4 were younger than plaintiff and all were of different national origins than plaintiff. In addition, plaintiff claims that defendant Chan revoked his 30-minute lunch in November 2018, following the disposition of the SDHR complaint.

Applying the law, the court explained:

This Court finds that in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the defendant’s motion must be denied in its entirety, except for the undisputed part discussed above [relating to two individual defendants and allegations that were the subject matter of plaintiff’s complaint to the State Division of Human Rights]. While defendants contend, relying on Brown, that there may not be temporal proximity because plaintiff filed the complaint in April 2018 and alleges discrimination and retaliation beginning in August of 2018, **5 the facts in Brown were distinguishable from the instant action (Brown 185 AD3d 410). In Brown, the plaintiff’s complaints were resolved two months before the alleged retaliatory conduct. Id. Here plaintiff’s SDHR complaint was not resolved until October of 2018, thus arguably the protected activity was ongoing as the SDHR complaint was not yet resolved.

As to the issue of race discrimination, if it is true that on two of the occasions the plaintiff was passed over for promotion for someone who was not of the same race and less qualified, then the plaintiff also could have a viable claim for race discrimination. Judging this case by the liberal notice pleading standards that this Court must, the Court finds that the claim for race discrimination is sufficiently pled. As there are allegedly 2 instances where less qualified people of a different race received a promotion over plaintiff.

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