Gender Discrimination, Race Discrimination, Retaliation, and Gender Motivated Violence Act Claims Sufficiently Alleged Against Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority

In Walker v. Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, No. 160839/2021, 2022 WL 3227920 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Aug. 09, 2022), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of gender- and race-based discrimination and retaliation claims, as well as her claim under the Gender Motivated Violence Act.

As to the discrimination and retaliation claims, the court explained:

Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s claims fail because she has not alleged that the adverse or different treatment she suffered occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. However, accepting all of Plaintiff’s allegations as true and granting Plaintiff all favorable inferences which may be drawn from the Complaint as this Court must, the Court finds Defendants’ argument is without merit, as Plaintiff repeatedly alleged she was subject to more intense scrutiny, passed over for certain positions or involvement in meetings, and even was subjected to physical violence because of her status as a Black women while similarly situated men were never subjected to such treatment in the workplace.

Moreover, the standard for determining liability for discrimination-based claims under the NYCHRL is to ensure that discrimination plays no role in the disparate treatment of similarly situated individuals in the workplace (Williams v New York City Housing Authority, 61 AD3d 62, 76 [1st Dept 2009]). The NYSHRL, which was amended in 2019, mirrors the “play no-role” standard under the NYCHRL (Hosking v Mem’l Sloan-Kettering Cancer Ctr., 186 AD3d 68, 64 n.1 [1st Dept 2020] [“this amendment is remarkably similar to the City HRL’s Restoration Act”]; Golston-Green v City of New York, 184 AD3d 24, 35 [2d Dept 2020]). Plaintiff’s allegations of physical and verbal abuse directed towards her, as a Black woman, that were not directed towards any similarly situated men in her office, give rise to the inference that discrimination played a role in Muallem’s treatment of Plaintiff thereby satisfying her pleading standard under NYCHRL and NYSHRL.

Plaintiff has also sufficiently pled retaliation. Plaintiff has demonstrated she engaged in protected activity by submitting a work place violence form and an incident report to NYPD after she was allegedly physically abused by Muallem, and was then retaliated against by allegedly being relocated to an office in extremely close proximity to the individual she alleged physically abused her, and was forced to come into the office during a surge of Covid-19 to conduct virtual litigation despite her underlying health condition while other similarly situated individuals were allowed to work remotely (O’Rourke v National Foreign Trade Council, Inc., 176 AD3d 517 [1st Dept 2019]; Harrington v City of New York, 157 AD3d 582, 585-586 [1st Dept 2018]; Albunio v City of New York, 67 AD3d 407, 408 [1st Dept 2009]). Under the standard upon which pleadings are reviewed in a pre-Answer motion to dismiss, the Court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently demonstrated that these alleged retaliations would reasonably deter a person from reporting their superior for alleged physical abuse.

The court further held that plaintiff stated a claim under the Gender Motivated Violence Act, codified at N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 10-1104. That statute permits a cause of action for an “injur[y] by an individual who commit[ted] a crime of violence motivated by gender.”

The court explained that “[b]ecause the Court must accept Plaintiff’s allegations as true on a motion to dismiss, and it is alleged Muallem physically struck the Plaintiff and had never struck a similarly situated male employee, the Court, giving the Plaintiff the benefit of all favorable inferences which may be drawn from the pleadings, finds that Plaintiff sufficiently states a claim under the GMVA.”

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