Race-Based Discrimination Claim Sufficiently Alleged Against Barnes & Noble

In Hunter v. Barnes & Noble, Inc., No. 153467/2022, 2023 WL 2366844 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Mar. 3, 2023), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of race discrimination, race-based harassment, retaliation, and aiding-and-abetting discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law.

As to plaintiff’s “adverse action” discrimination claim under the state law, the court explained:

Plaintiff has adequately pled that he suffered an adverse employment action. In addition to alleging that he was passed over for a promotion to Regional Director, Plaintiff asserts that he was demoted, reassigned to the “Café Department,” and deprived of his ability to earn commission “which accounted for the bulk of his income”. Read together, these allegations sufficiently allege that he suffered a materially adverse change in the terms and conditions of his employment in the form of, inter alia, a reduction in his pay or privileges and denial of a promotion.

Under the NYSHRL, an inference of discrimination may be found where a plaintiff alleges that they were treated less favorably than similarly situated individuals not in their protected class, including where a position was filled or held open for a person not in the same protected class. A plaintiff must plead concrete factual allegations that amount to more than “mere legal conclusions” to support an inference of discrimination in the context of an adverse employment action.

Here, the Court finds that the Amended Complaint contains factual allegations sufficient to allege an inference of discrimination. With respect to his non-promotion, Plaintiff alleges that a white employee with fewer qualifications was made Regional Director. He further alleges that Defendants did not impose the workplace restrictions that he was subjected to on similarly situated white employees.

[Cleaned up.]

The court likewise held that plaintiff’s counterpart claim under the New York City Human Rights Law was sufficiently pled, noting that “[t]o state a claim for discrimination under the NYCHRL, a plaintiff must only show differential treatment of any degree based on a discriminatory motive” and that “[h]aving met the higher burden of pleading the requisite elements of discrimination under the NYSHRL, Plaintiff has sufficiently pled that he was subject to differential treatment based on a discriminatory motive under the NYCHRL.”

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