Court Denies Petition Seeking Review of $5k Award in Employment Discrimination/Retaliation Case

In Matter of Chaplin v .New York State Div. of Human Rights, 2020 NY Slip Op 04302 (App. Div. 2d Dept. July 29, 2020), the Appellate Division, Second Department confirmed the New York State Division of Human Rights’ award of $5,000 for compensatory damages for mental anguish, and no damages for, inter alia, lost income, pension benefits, and fringe benefits.

In this case, the New York State Division of Human Rights issued a determination finding that the Copiague Union Free School District unlawfully discriminated against the complainant by providing a negative employment reference to a prospective employer in retaliation for protected activity, but awarding the complainant only $5,000. Complainant challenged this determination under CPLR Article 78.

In evaluating the award, the court explained:

Here, the determination to award the sum of $5,000 in compensatory damages for mental anguish is supported by substantial evidence and comparable to other awards for similar injuries (see e.g. Matter of New York State Div. of Human Rights v Roadtec, Inc., 167 AD3d 898, 900). The determination to not award Chaplin any compensatory damages for, inter alia, lost wages, pension benefits, and fringe benefits was not arbitrary and capricious as to constitute an abuse of discretion given the SDHR’s finding that Chaplin failed to present evidence that he was not hired for a particular job as a result of any improper or retaliatory conduct by his former employer.

Based on this, the court confirmed the determination, denied the Article 78 petition, and dismissed the proceeding on the merits.

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