Constructive Discharge & Discrimination Claims Dismissed Against NYS Dept. of Health

In Phoenix v New York State Dept. of Health, No. 151915/2015, 2019 WL 5150271 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Oct. 09, 2019), the court dismissed plaintiff’s constructive discharge and race discrimination claims.

As to plaintiff’s constructive discharge claim, the court explained (citations omitted):

To state a claim for constructive discharge, plaintiff must allege facts showing that defendant deliberately created working conditions so intolerable, difficult or unpleasant that a reasonable person would have felt compelled to resign. The term “deliberate” is defined as something more than negligence or ineffectiveness.

Applying the law to the facts, the court noted, among other things, that plaintiff sent a “laudatory email” to a supervisor, and had no isseus with that supervisor for several months prior to her resignation. It also found that plaintiff failed to allege any facts indicative of “the existence of a hostile work environment, let alone a deliberate hostile work environment.”

As to plaintiff’s discrimination claims:

Plaintiff’s claims that DOH improperly failed to promote her, required her to work out of title, failed to transfer plaintiff to another division, and improperly referred to plaintiff as “program manager” are not intentionally discriminatory actions. Each action had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason as articulated by DOH, which plaintiff has failed to demonstrate was merely pretextual. With respect to these actions, DOH has a required civil service exam in order to appoint employees to a specific program director position. Specifically, candidates must be on the Civil Service list for the Grade 29 Area Office Director position. Plaintiff scored lower than five other interested candidates on said list, which bared her from that promotion. Rather than give the job to someone else, DOH permitted plaintiff to work out of title and left the job vacant. Instead, plaintiff was referred to as “program manager” and eventually received additional compensation for the out of title work.

Regarding telecommuting, there was “no evidence that plaintiff’s application for telecommuting was denied because of her race.”

Finally, the court held that defendant’s “investigation into the alleged wrongdoing by plaintiff does not qualify as an adverse employment action” (citing cases).

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