Race Discrimination, Retaliation, Hostile Work Environment, and Failure to Accommodate Disability Claims Against NYC DOE Survive Dismissal

In Safyan v. The Dept. of Educ. of the City of New York, No. 500312/2023, 2023 WL 5957086 (N.Y. Sup Ct, Kings County Sep. 13, 2023), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of race-based discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment asserted under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

From the decision:

Crediting plaintiff’s allegations for the purpose of this pre-answer, pre-discovery motion to dismiss the proposed amended complaint pursuant to CPLR § 3211 (a) (7), the Court finds that the proposed amended complaint states causes of action for race-based discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment in violation of each of the State and the City HRLs for the period from and after September 2021 (see Petit v Department of Educ. of City of NY, 177 AD3d 402, 403 [1st Dept 2019]; Matter of Mcintosh v Department of Educ. of City of NY, 115 AD3d 464 [1st Dept 2014]; Perez v City of NY, 2012 NY Slip Op 31838[U] [Sup Ct, NY County 2012]; see also Cahill v State, 139 AD3d 779, 781 [2d Dept 2016]). Plaintiff’s non-time-barred allegations are sufficient to give defendant “fair notice” of the nature of plaintiff’s claims and their grounds (see Vig v New York Hairspray Co., L.P., 67 AD3d 140, 145 [1st Dept 2009]). “Fair notice is all that is required to survive [dismissal] at the pleading stage” (Petit, 177 AD3d at 403).

By way of illustration, plaintiff’s non-time-barred allegations that, following her post-pandemic complaints and for the period from and after September 2021: (1) she was required to sign in and out at the Queens South BO and at every school she visited; (2) she was subjected to an increased scrutiny of her time sheets; (3) she did not have her time sheets expeditiously approved by her supervisor; (4) she had her time sheets explicitly stamped “subject to approval”; (5) she was reprimanded and disciplined for minor timekeeping errors (both orally and by letters to file); and (6) she was burdened with an increased workload – whereas all of her African American colleagues at Queens South BO were more favorably treated than her in each of the foregoing categories during the same time period from and after September 2021 – sufficiently pleaded a cause of action to recover damages for unlawful retaliation in violation of the State and City HRLs.

The court further held that plaintiff pleaded non-time-barred claims for disability discrimination under a failure-to-accommodate theory, noting that following plaintiff’s reasonable accommodation request “on account of her upcoming medical and/or surgical procedure, defendant allegedly failed to engage into an interactive dialogue with her in an attempt to reach some reasonable accommodation.”

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