Unlike a “State Human Rights Law” Cause of Action, a “New York City Human Rights Law” Cause of Action Is Supported If Racial Bias Played “Any Role” (As Opposed to a “Motivating and Substantial Role”) In the Discriminatory Action
The plaintiff alleged he was terminated from employment due to racial bias and sued under the Executive Law (New York State Human Rights Law) and under New York City Human Rights Law. Plaintiff acknowledged that he was sleeping on the job, a legitimate reason for termination. Plaintiff’s New York State Human Rights Law cause of action was dismissed because plaintiff could not show that racial bias played a “motivating or substantial role” in the termination. But, because the criteria for a cause of action under the New York City Human Rights Law are broader, the New York City Human Rights Law cause of action survived summary judgment. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, if termination was motivated “in part” by racial bias, even though there was a legitimate reason for termination, the termination is actionable:
The Court of Appeals has recognized that the New York City Human Rights Law must be construed “broadly in favor of discrimination plaintiffs, to the extent that such a construction is reasonably possible” … . Thus, the New York City Human Rights Law is to be more broadly interpreted than similarly worded federal or State antidiscrimination provisions … . The Appellate Division, First Department, has interpreted the New York City Human Rights Law as requiring that unlawful discrimination play ” no role'” in an employment decision … . Our Court has expressed general agreement with the First Department’s interpretation of the New York City Human Rights Law … . Thus, under the broadly worded and broadly interpreted New York City Human Rights Law, if the supervisor’s decision to report the plaintiff was motivated by racial or ethnic animus, even in part, the defendant may be held liable.
The evidence undisputedly established that the plaintiff’s employment was terminated by the defendant because the plaintiff was found to be asleep while on duty, in violation of its rules. Additionally, there was evidence that the defendant had a zero-tolerance policy with respect to violations of that rule. Further, it is also not disputed that the defendant’s no-tolerance policy regarding the termination of the employment of employees found sleeping while on duty is a legitimate policy. Nevertheless, the plaintiff presented evidence that his supervisor reported him to the defendant’s management in part out of racial animus, and did not report other, non-Indian employees who were found sleeping while on duty. Thus, the plaintiff raised a triable issue of fact as to whether his supervisor’s unlawful discrimination, which is to be imputed to the defendant, played a role in the termination of the plaintiff’s employment. Accordingly, the Supreme Court erred in granting that branch of the defendant’s motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the cause of action alleging a violation of the New York City Human Rights Law … . Singh v Covenant Aviation Sec., LLC, 2015 NY Slip Op 06911, 2nd Dept 9-23-15