NYCHRL Discrimination Claims Dismissed Against New York State Unified Court System

In Culler v. New York State Unified Ct. Sys., 2019 NY Slip Op 32134(U) (Sup. Ct. Kings Cty. July 7, 2019), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s race discrimination and hostile work environment claims asserted under the New York City Human Rights Law on the grounds of sovereign immunity, explaining:[1]As noted by the court, the plaintiff’s attorney conceded at oral argument that the NYCHRL claims were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

It is well-established that the Unified Court System is an arm of the State and would thus be entitled to sovereign immunity … . With regard to the NYCHRL, the Appellate Division, Second Department has held that “the City of New York does not have the power to waive the State’s sovereign immunity by passing an antidiscrimination code provision applicable to instrumentalities of the State” … . As instrumentalities of the State, the Court defendants are not subject to the provisions of the New York City Human Rights Law[.]

While the court held that it did have subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff’s claims under the New York State Human Rights Law – “inasmuch as the State Legislature waived sovereign immunity when it passed this law and made its provisions applicable to the State” – it held that plaintiff failed to state a claim against the NYS Unified Court System and Kings County Surrogates Court. Specifically, the court held that the Court defendants could not be held liable as “employers” under the NYSHRL under the “single employer doctrine.”

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1. As noted by the court, the plaintiff’s attorney conceded at oral argument that the NYCHRL claims were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.