State, City Discrimination Claims Dismissed Against NYS Dep’t of Labor on Eleventh Amendment Grounds

In Kaplan v. New York State Department of Labor, 2019 WL 3252911 (S.D.N.Y. July 19, 2019), a case involving claims of discrimination based on religion, the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s state law discrimination claims under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) on Eleventh Amendment (sovereign immunity) grounds.[1]The court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s federal claims.

The court summarized the law in this area:

The Eleventh Amendment “render[s] states and their agencies immune from suits brought by private parties in federal court.” In re Charter Oak Assocs., 361 F.3d 760, 765 (2d Cir. 2004). Further, the “Eleventh Amendment forecloses … the application of normal principles of ancillary and pendent jurisdiction where claims are pressed against the State.” Cnty. of Oneida, N.Y. v. Oneida Indian Nation, 470 U.S. 226, 251 (1985). More specifically, the Supreme Court has admonished lower courts that “neither pendent jurisdiction nor any other basis of jurisdiction may override the Eleventh Amendment. A federal court must examine each claim in a case to see if the court’s jurisdiction over that claim is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.” Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 120 (1984). In addition to this, agents of the state acting in their official capacity are also immune under the Eleventh Amendment.

Applying the law, the court concluded:

The State Defendants’ arguments for dismissal of these counts are straightforward: DOL is a state agency, and Commissioner Reardon is a state official sued in her official capacity. (See NY Br. 8-11). A state and its agencies are immune from suits brought by private parties in federal court, unless Congress unequivocally expresses its intent to abrogate that immunity or a state waives its immunity. See In re Charter Oak Assocs., 361 F.3d at 765. The bar applies to officers of the state as well sued in their individual capacities. See Gan, 996 F.2d at 529. “The State of New York has not consented to suit in federal court through NYSHRL.” Jackson v. N.Y.S. Dep’t of Labor, 709 F. Supp. 2d 218, 226 (S.D.N.Y. 2010). With particular respect to claims under local law, such as the NYCHRL, the Second Circuit has made plain that “[t]he City of New York does not have the power to abrogate the immunity of the State, and … [has] found no evidence that the State has consented to suit in federal court under the NYCHRL.”

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1. The court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s federal claims.