DIFFERENT STANDARDS OF PROOF OF EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION UNDER THE NY CITY HUMAN RIGHTS LAW, AS OPPOSED TO THE NY STATE HUMAN RIGHTS LAW, EXPLAINED IN SOME DEPTH; PLAINTIFF’S CAUSE OF ACTION FOR GENDER DISCRIMINATION UNDER THE NY CITY HUMAN RIGHTS LAW ON A THEORY OF A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT REINSTATED (SECOND DEPT).
The Second Department, in a comprehensive opinion by Justice Brathwaite Nelson, reversing (modifying) Supreme Court, determined plaintiff’s cause of action for gender discrimination on a theory of a hostile work environment under the NY City Human Rights Law should not have been dismissed. The Second Department held that the “materially adverse” change in employment conditions, which applies to the NY State Human Rights Law, does not apply to the NY City Human Rights Law. The standard under the NY City Human Rights Law is a showing that plaintiff was subject to an unfavorable change or treated less well than other employees on the basis of a protected characteristic. The Second Department took pains to explain the different standards of proof under the State and City Human Rights Laws:
… [U]nder the City Human Rights Law, in order to demonstrate liability, a plaintiff need not establish that she or he was subjected to a “materially adverse” change to terms and conditions of employment, but only that she or he was subject to an unfavorable change or treated less well than other employees on the basis of a protected characteristic … . * * *
The alleged comment by Denesopolis [plaintiff’s boss], that he did not “like women on this job because they have babies,” plainly expresses a view of the role of women in the workplace. Considering the totality of the circumstances, which include the plaintiff’s testimony that Denesopolis expressed displeasure upon learning of her transfer to his unit as a pregnant woman, and then again at her second pregnancy, we cannot say that this is a “truly insubstantial case” as a matter of law. In addition, while it might be inferred that the incidents in which Denesopolis publicly reprimanded the plaintiff and referred to her as an “empty suit” and “Sergeant do nothing” were related to deficiencies in her performance as a sergeant, on the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, we must view the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. A jury could agree with the plaintiff that the conduct was based upon her pregnancies and conclude that the plaintiff was subject to a workplace in which she was treated less well than others because of her gender. Accordingly, the cause of action alleging gender discrimination on a theory of a hostile work environment under the City Human Rights Law must be reinstated. Golston-Green v City of New York, 2020 NY Slip Op 02768, Second Dept 5-13-20