Employment (Race) Discrimination Claims Sufficiently Alleged Against Local 52

In Gershenson v. Local 52, No. 151180/2021, 2022 WL 3010192 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County July 28, 2022), the court held, inter alia, that plaintiff sufficiently alleged claims of race-based employment discrimination under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

From the decision:

In determining whether the facts alleged in the complaint and inferences arising therefrom state a cause of action for employment discrimination, plaintiff’s allegations must be construed in her favor, especially given her reliance on the NYSHRL and NYCHRL. (Vig v New York Hairspray Co., L.P., 67 AD3d 140 [1st Dept 2009] [employment discrimination cases require only notice pleading; plaintiff need not plead specific facts establishing prima facie case of discrimination]). The provisions of the NYCHRL are to be construed “broadly in favor of discrimination plaintiffs, to the extent that such a construction is reasonably possible” (Albunio v City of New York, 16 NY3d 472, 478 [2011]), and with due regard for fulfilling the law’s remedial goals (Bennett v Health Mgt. Sys., Inc., 92 AD3d 29, 34 [1st Dept 2011], lv denied 18 NY3d 811[2012]; Williams v New York City Hous. Auth., 61 AD3d 62, 66 [1st Dept 2009], lv denied 13 NY3d 702). Moreover, the NYCHRL is “to be more broadly interpreted than similarly-worded federal or State antidiscrimination provisions.” (Singh v Covenant Aviation Sec., LLC, 131 AD3d 1158, 1161 [2d Dept 2015]; Bennett, 92 AD3d at 34).

A cause of action for employment discrimination under NYCHRL and NYSHRL is set forth, prima facie, when it is shown that (1) the plaintiff is a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified to hold the position; (3) she was terminated from employment or suffered another adverse employment action; and (4) the discharge or other adverse action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. (Forrest v Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 NY3d 295, 313 [2004]; Harrington v City of New York, 157 AD3d 582, 584 [1st Dept 2018]).

Here, it is undisputed that plaintiff is a member of a protected class and that she was qualified to hold her position. To plead circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination, plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to support such an inference beyond conclusory allegations of bias. (Wolfe-Santos v NYS Gaming Commission, 188 AD3d 622 [1st Dept 2020]; Askin v Dept. of Educ. Of City of N.Y., 110 AD3d 621, 622 [1st Dept 2013]). The cause of action may be supported by allegations of the disparate treatment of similarly situated employees. (Brown v City of New York, 188 AD3d 518, 519 [1st Dept 2020]; Whitfield-Ortiz, 116 AD3d at 581).

Plaintiff alleges disparate treatment, both as to defendants’ job distribution policy and the stripping of her duties and responsibilities when elected to the executive board. Thus, plaintiff sufficiently pleads this element.

For an employment action to be adverse, the plaintiff must demonstrate that it affected a change in the terms and conditions of employment “more disruptive than a mere inconvenience or an alteration of job responsibilities” such as “a termination of employment, a demotion evidenced by a decrease in wage or salary, a less distinguished title, a material loss of benefits, [or] significantly diminished material responsibilities” (Forrest, 3 NY3d at 306 [internal quotations omitted]; cf. Okocha v City of New York, 122 AD3d 550 [1st Dept 2014] [upholding summary dismissal of employment discrimination claim based on defendant’s failure to promote plaintiff, and subjecting him to investigation based on substantiated allegations of misconduct]). Under the NYCHRL, such action need not be “materially adverse.” (Golsten-Green v City of New York, 184 AD3d 24 [2d Dept 2020]).

Here, as plaintiff alleges that she was denied preferable, more lucrative job assignments due to her race, and that she was stripped of her duties and responsibilities upon her election to the executive board, she sufficiently alleges adverse employment actions under the NYCHRL and NYSHRL, and thus states a cause of action for employment discrimination.

The court also held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged claims of retaliation and disparate impact.

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