Court Discusses Individual Liability Under NYS and NYC Human Rights Laws in Disability Discrimination Case

In Magnotti v. Crossroads Healthcare Mgmt. LLC, 14-cv-6679, 2016 WL 3080801 (E.D.N.Y. May 27, 2016), the court discusses the circumstances under which an individual may be held liable under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

In this disability discrimination and retaliation case, plaintiff – a full-time supervising pharmacist – asserts that after he recovered from spinal surgery and was cleared to return to work, defendants refused to permit him to work full time. Plaintiff sought to hold Paolucci – an officer and managing member of defendant – who was allegedly “complicit” in this decision.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act do not impose individual liability.

The court summarized the law:

Individuals may be held liable under the NYSHRL if they have an ownership interest in the employer or the authority to hire and fire employees. If a plaintiff proves that the individual had the ability to do more than carry out personnel decisions, including the power to hire and fire employees and supervise and control employee conditions of employment, he need not prove that this individual actually used such powers [against] the plaintiff. Moreover, the plaintiff must show that the individual had some minimal culpability or connection [to] the underlying [claim].The NYSHRL and NYCHRL also provide for aiding-and-abetting liability. To be held liable under these provisions, an individual employee need not himself take part in the primary violation[;] [he need only] aid, abet, incite, coerce or compel, a primary violation of the HRL committed by another employee or the business itself. [C]ourts have refused to dismiss ‘aiding and abetting’ claims against supervisors who were informed about offensive conduct but failed to take appropriate investigative or remedial measures.

Applying the law to the facts, the court held:

Magnotti alleges that Paolucci was an owner and senior officer of Proscript. At this stage, it is plausible that Paolucci was involved in, or at least condoned, the decision to reduce Magnotti’s hours. He was Magnotti’s direct supervisor, knew about Magnotti’s condition, received updates about his recovery, and was included in various correspondence regarding his employment. Significantly, he participated in the conversation notifying Magnotti about the decision to reduce his hours. Thus, Paolucci may be held individually liable under the state and city human rights laws.