Retaliation Claims Sufficiently Alleged; Termination Followed Pregnancy Leave Request

In a recent case, Symotyuk-Knoll v. Healthequity, Inc., 1:21-CV-08348 (ALC), 2023 WL 5576405 (S.D.N.Y. August 29, 2023), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s retaliation claims asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

To state a prima facie claim for retaliation under Title VII and the NYSHRL, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) she participated in a protected activity; (2) the defendant was aware of her protected activity; (3) she suffered an “adverse employment action;” and (4) there is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. Zann Kwan v. Andalex Grp. LLC, 737 F.3d 834, 844 (2d Cir. 2013). A causal connection is established “by showing that the protected activity was followed closely by the discriminatory treatment.” Hicks v. Baines, 593 F.3d 159, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). An employee engaged in a “protected activity” “ ‘need not establish that the conduct [s]he opposed was in fact a violation of Title VII,’ but rather, only that she had a ‘good faith, reasonable belief’ that the underlying employment practice was unlawful.” Reed v. A.W. Lawrence & Co., 95 F.3d 1170, 1178 (2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Manoharan v. Columbia Univ. Coll. of Physicians & Surgeons, 842 F.2d 590, 593 (2d Cir. 1988)). “A mere mention of feeling ‘discriminated against’ is not enough to put an employer on notice of a protected complaint if ‘nothing in the substance of the complaint suggests that the complained-of activity is, in fact, unlawfully discriminatory.’ ”

In this case, Plaintiff posits that she engaged in multiple protected activities. This includes voicing her concerns about job security to Mr. Murdock due to the merger and her leave, informing Ms. Mathis she was worried that her time off requests would be refused, and her request for intermittent NYSPFL leave. For the purposes of this motion, the Court will likewise accept the contention that Plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action when she was terminated from her job.

Plaintiff has properly established that she engaged in a protected activity by seeking pregnancy leave, that her employer was aware of the activity, and that she was terminated because of her activity.

[Cleaned up.]

Having determined that plaintiff stated a claim under federal and state law, the likewise held that plaintiff also stated a claim under the New York City Human Rights Law, noting specifically that “[u]nder the NYCHRL, requests for a reasonable accommodation are a protected activity.”

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