First Department Affirms Dismissal of Retaliation Claim Against Isabella Geriatric Center

In Stephens v. Isabella Geriatric Ctr., Inc., 2019 NY Slip Op 08795 (App. Div. 1st Dept. Dec. 10, 2019), the court unanimously affirmed the dismissal, by summary judgment, of plaintiff’s retaliation claims under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

In this case, plaintiff alleged that he was terminated from his employment at defendant as a certified nursing assistant shortly after he stated, during a performance evaluation meeting, that the director of nursing was “very biased” and that he intended to take a copy of his evaluation “to Human Rights.”

The court noted that – assuming that plaintiff made out a prima facie case of retaliation – defendants met their burden of proffering legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for plaintiff’s termination. Specifically:

Defendants submitted numerous written statements and letters from plaintiff’s coworkers to Isabella, spanning more than 10 years, complaining of plaintiff’s insubordinate and aggressive behavior in the workplace, which made them feel threatened. He had previously been suspended for such conduct in 2005, and a nursing supervisor also testified that she had to move several staff members to other units, upon their request, as they did not want to work with plaintiff.

It held that plaintiff, in response, failed to show that defendants’ proffered reasons for suspending and terminating plaintiff were “mere pretexts”, and that plaintiff “did not attempt to refute any of the evidence defendants submitted, which showed that before he was terminated he had engaged in years of inappropriate behavior in violation of the Employee Handbook.”

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