Age Discrimination Complaint Sufficiently Alleged Against Battery Park City Authority

In Pustilnik v. Battery Park City Authority et al, No. 150138/2020, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 21087, 2021 WL 1324212 (NY Sup. Ct. NY Cty. Apr. 8, 2021), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim of age discrimination asserted under the New York City Human Rights Law.[1]The court also denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of discrimination based on her disability and caregiver status.

To support her age-discrimination claim, Pustilnik has alleged that she is over 50 and that defendant Jones (who is under 50) knew her age; that Jones repeatedly hired individuals to the Battery Park City Authority’s senior staff who were in their 30s and 40s; that notwithstanding her satisfactory performance, defendants terminated Pustilnik’s employment on non-performance grounds that were suspicious and seemingly pretextual; and that Pustilnik was replaced by an attorney who is several years younger than Pustilnik (and whom Jones knew to be younger).5 This court concludes that these allegations are sufficient to state a cause of action under the relaxed pleading standards governing NYCHRL claims. (See Matter of McIntosh v Dept. of Educ. of the City of NY, 115 AD3d 464 [1st Dept 2014] [reversing dismissal of NYCHRL age- and race-discrimination claims].)

Defendants emphasize that “[a]bsent from the Complaint are allegations of comments or criticisms about Plaintiff’s age, of any discussion of Plaintiff’s age in connection with her firing, or of any invidious comments about older individuals.” (NYSCEF No. 10 at 15.) It is true that Pustilnik has not made these sorts of allegations. And this court does not disagree that the age-discrimination allegations that Pustilnik has made are somewhat thin. At the same time, though, the complaint fairly puts defendants on notice of the nature of Pustilnik’s age-discrimination claim and the grounds she has for believing that defendants terminated her employment in part for discriminatory reasons. At the current stage of this action, that is sufficient.

Defendants also offer various arguments seeking to rebut, or at least undercut, the inferences of discrimination that Pustilnik identifies from the allegations of her complaint. But at the pleading stage, this court is obliged to construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing inferences for her, not against her.6 Defendants’ evidence-specific challenges to the allegations of Pustilnik’s complaint are certainly fair argument at summary judgment; but they do not warrant dismissal at the pleading stage.

1 The court also denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of discrimination based on her disability and caregiver status.
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