Hostile Work Environment, Discrimination Claims Dismissed Against NYC Dept. of Education

In Fields v The Dept. of Educ. of the City of New York, No. 154283/2016, 2019 WL 1580151, at *3, 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 30955(U) (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Apr. 12, 2019), the court dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim because it was not included in plaintiff’s Notice of Claim, and therefore plaintiff failed to comply with the condition precedent required under Education Law § 3813.

The court also dismissed plaintiff’s discrimination claims under the New York City Human Rights Law.

It summarized the law as follows:

The standard for recovery under the NYCHRL is analyzed pursuant to the burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v Green (411 U.S. 792 [1973]; see Stephenson v Hotel Empls. & Rest. Empls. Union Local 100 of the AFL-CIO, 6 NY3d 265, 270 [2006]; Forrest v Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 NY3d 295, 305 [2004]). Under McDonnell Douglas, the plaintiff has the initial burden to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. To meet that burden, plaintiff must show that he or she is a member of a protected class, was qualified for the position held, was terminated from employment or suffered another adverse employment action, and the termination or other adverse action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. (Stephenson, 6 NY3d at 270, citing Ferrante v American Lung Ass’n, 90 NY2d 623, 629 [1997]; Forrest, 3 NY3d at 305; Baldwin v Cablevision Sys. Corp., 65 AD3d 961, 965 [1st Dept 2009]).

A plaintiff may prevail in an action under the NYCHRL if “he or she proves that unlawful discrimination was one of the motivating factors, even if it was not the sole motivating factor, for an adverse employment decision, or that the action was ‘more likely than not based in whole or in part on discrimination.” (Melman v Montefiore Med. Ctr., 98 AD3d 107, 127 [1st Dept 2012], quoting Aulicino v New York City Dept. of Homeless Servs., 580 F3d 73, 80 [2d Cir 2009]). If plaintiff makes this prima facie showing, then the burden shifts to the employer to rebut the presumption of discrimination by demonstrating that there was a legitimate and non-discriminatory, reason for its employment decision. If the employer articulates a legitimate, non-discriminatory basis for its decision, then the burden shifts back to the plaintiff “to prove that the legitimate reasons proffered by defendant were merely a pretext for discrimination.”

Applying the law, the court held that plaintiff’s complaint “fails to sufficiently assert discrimination as no adverse action or disparate treatment is shown due to one or more of her protected characteristics.”

For example, while plaintiff alleged that “she was not allowed to use her cell phone as a timer but was forced to observe a Hispanic teacher who was permitted to utilize a cell phone as a timer,” she “fails to set forth a basis for the assertion that the teacher was administratively allowed or permitted to use a cell phone and offers mere conjecture as to same” and “fails to establish that the prohibition against cell phone usage was based upon age, race, or national origin or that she suffered a subsequent adverse employment action in connection to cell phone use.”