Retaliation Claim Sufficiently Alleged; Court Grants Motion to Amend Complaint to Add NYC Human Rights Law Claim Arising From Complaints of Sexual Harassment

In Donnelly v. New York City & Vicinity Dist. Council of the United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., 2021 NY Slip Op 31308(U), No. 152197/2019, 2021 WL 1549821 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Apr. 20, 2021), the court granted plaintiff’s motion to amend their complaint to add a claim for retaliation under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Specifically, plaintiff seeks to add a NYCHRL retaliation claim “based on his complaints and objecting to McInnis’s sexual harassment of female District Council employees and his subsequent retaliatory firing” as well as additional allegations, including “that McInnis had faced sexual harassment complaints from another former female employee, who had received a confidential settlement payment.”

In permitting the amendment, the court explained:

Pursuant to Administrative Code § 8-107(7), as pertinent here, “[i]t shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice … to retaliate or discriminate in any manner against any person because such person has … opposed any practice forbidden under this chapter.” To state a claim of retaliation under the NYCHRL, plaintiff must allege that he was engaged in a protected activity, that his employer was aware of such activity, that he suffered an adverse employment action, and that there exists a causal connection between the protective activity and the adverse action. (Forrest v Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 NY3d 295, 313 [2004]).

The provisions of the NYCHRL are to be construed “broadly in favor of discrimination plaintiffs, to the extent that such a construction is reasonably possible” (Albunio v City of New York, 16 NY3d 472, 478 [2011]), and with due regard for fulfilling the law’s remedial goals (Bennett v Health Mgt. Sys., Inc., 92 AD3d 29, 34 [1st Dept 2011], lv denied, 18 NY3d 811 [2012]; Williams v New York City Hous. Auth., 61 AD3d 62, 66 [1st Dept 2009], lv denied 13 NY3d 702). The NYCHRL is “to be more broadly interpreted than similarly-worded federal or State antidiscrimination provisions.” (Singh v Covenant Aviation Sec., LLC, 131 AD3d 1158, 1161 [2d Dept 2015]).

In light of the liberal pleading standards of the NYCHRL and the liberal standard afforded under CPLR 3025(b) (see Greene v Esplanade Venture P’ship, — NY3d –, 2021 NY Slip Op 01092, *3 [2021] [proposed amendments to be denied only when “patently devoid of merit”] [citation omitted]), plaintiff’s allegations that he had complained to his direct supervisor about McInnis’s alleged sexual harassment, that McInnis was aware of that complaint, and that his employment was terminated due in part to that complaint are sufficient to state a cause of action for retaliation under the NYCHRL.

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