CUNY Italian Professor’s Age Discrimination Claims Sufficiently Alleged

In Huffman v. Brooklyn College, The City University of New York and Anne Lopes, No. 20-CV-06156, 2022 WL 43766 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 5, 2022), the court, inter alia, held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

In discussing plaintiff’s national origin discrimination claims (which I addressed in another blog post), the court held that plaintiff plausibly alleged that she was subject to an “adverse employment action” – i.e., plaintiff, “an expert in the poetry of Eugenio Montale and a decorated scholar of Italian language and literature, was reassigned by CUNY to teach general English courses.”

The court continued:

Further, the court finds that Huffman plausibly alleges facts that suggest age was a “but-for” cause of the adverse employment action she experienced – and therefore both her NYSHRL and NYCHRL claims survive, notwithstanding the uncertainty as to their precise pleading standards after Gorzynski. Because this motion to dismiss must be decided on the basis of the facts as alleged in Plaintiff’s complaint, there is much we do not yet know about why CUNY canceled the Italian major at Brooklyn College. It apparently remained popular with students despite Provost Lopes’s alleged statement that “[t]he Italians all moved out of Brooklyn.” But it is at least plausible that CUNY decided that, unlike a number of other languages assigned a full schedule (allegedly Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, German, and Russian, see Am. Compl. ¶ 53), Italian might not be so popular in the future, and it was the only department with faculty all over the age of 60.

The court concluded that while it is unclear at this stage that plaintiff’s allegation can survive summary judgment or a jury trial, it was enough “to plausibly allege that the employment action would not have been taken but for the professors’ age.”

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