Plaintiff States Retaliation Claim Under NY Labor Law 215 [Meija v. T.N. 888 Eighth Ave LLC]

In Mejia v. T.N. 888 Eighth Ave. LLC Co., 2018 WL 1988855 (NY Sup. Ct. NY Cty., Index No. 150228/2014), the court held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged retaliation under New York Labor Law 215.

In his thorough and well-reasoned opinion, New York Supreme Court Justice Robert Kalish wrote, inter alia:

Plaintiff then alleged that, in retaliation for her participation in the federal lawsuit, defendants subjected her to adverse employment actions, including commencing a baseless lawsuit against her. Plaintiff has alleged that there was no basis for this lawsuit. She continued that, as a result of the lawsuit, the reporter wrote an article which negatively impacted her job opportunities. An adverse action is one that “might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting similar charges. Courts have routinely held that this definition encompasses a broad range of retaliatory acts . . ..” Oram v SoulCycle LLC, 979 F Supp 2d 498, 510 (SD NY 2013) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Defendants’ lawsuit can be construed as an adverse action taken against plaintiff as “Courts have held that baseless claims or lawsuits designed to deter claimants from seeking legal redress constitute impermissibly adverse retaliatory actions . . . .” Torres v Gristede’s Operating Corp., 628 F Supp 2d 447, 472 (SD NY 2008).

Defendants argue that plaintiff cannot demonstrate any adverse treatment because there are no documented complaints to management. However, under Labor Law § 215(1) (a), there is no requirement that plaintiff document complaints to management about NYLL violations. Workers are protected when they make internal complaints to management about violations of the NYLL or when they institute formal legal proceedings. See NYLL § 215 (1) (a) (i).

In addition, defendants deny mistreating plaintiff after she commenced the lawsuit and reiterate that she was not fired, but voluntarily left her job. Nevertheless, for purposes of this motion, because defendants initiated an action against plaintiff, combined with Plaintiff’s allegations concerning schedule changes and intimidation as a result of filing her lawsuit, Plaintiff has sufficiently pled that she suffered from an adverse action as a result of her complaints under the NYLL. See e.g. Kreinik v Showbran Photo, Inc., 2003 WL 22339268, *9, 2003 US Dist LEXIS 18276, *30 (SD NY Oct. 14, 2003, No. 02-Civ-1172 [RMB] [DF]) (Plaintiff sufficiently alleged adverse actions under Labor Law § 215 by sufficiently alleging that the “counterclaims asserted against him could harm his reputation in his industry and negatively affect his prospective employment or business opportunities”).

Lastly, plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a causal connection by asserting that defendants harassed plaintiff right after she joined the federal lawsuit and then commenced their own action against plaintiff approximately nine months later.

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