Plaintiff States Claim for Pregnancy Discrimination Under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws

In Krause v. Lancer & Loader Group LLC, 40 Misc.3d 385 (Sup. Ct. NY Cty. May 1, 2013), the court confirms that both the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) recognize claims of pregnancy discrimination, and that she stated such a claim under both laws.

There, plaintiff Jessica Krause alleged that she was fired within a month of telling her employer that she was pregnant.  The company cited the “poor economy” and reduced sales as their reasons for firing plaintiff.

Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim under CPLR 3211(a)(7).

Pregnancy Discrimination

First, the court held that plaintiff stated a cognizable claim for pregnancy discrimination under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL.

While neither statute specifically identifies “pregnancy” as a protected class, New York’s highest court has held that pregnancy discrimination qualifies as sex/gender discrimination.

The NYSHRL provides the same protections as the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978:  “An employment practice is unlawful in contravention of the PDA when pregnancy is a motivating factor for an adverse employment action.”

At this stage, plaintiff was only required to satisfy the “notice pleading” standard, under which she was required only to give defendant “fair notice of the nature and grounds of her claims.”

She did so by alleging that she was pregnant immediately before her termination; that she was recruited by the owner (who later fired her) based on his prior knowledge of her “ability to procure sales”; and that she was fired less than one month after telling her supervisor that she was pregnant.  These facts constituted “circumstances raising an inference of discrimination.”

Since plaintiff stated a pregnancy discrimination claim under the NYSHRL, she necessarily stated such a claim under the broader NYCHRL.

Disability Discrimination

While plaintiff sufficiently alleged pregnancy discrimination, she failed to sufficiently allege disability discrimination under the NYSHRL or NYCHRL, because she failed to allege an “impairment”.

A “normal” pregnancy, standing alone, is not a “disability” within the meaning of the statutes.

Individual Liability

Plaintiff stated a cognizable claim against defendant’s owner by alleging that he hired plaintiff and fired her after she told the vice president – who “regularly apprised [the owner] of all company matters” – that she was pregnant.

These allegations supported plaintiff’s claim that the owner “actually participated in the alleged discriminatory conduct” and therefore that he could be held individually liable as plaintiff’s “employer” under NYSHRL § 296(1).

Aiding and Abetting

The court dismissed plaintiff’s “aiding and abetting” claim against the company owner, reasoning that one cannot aid and abet one’s own conduct.

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