Discrimination, Constructive Discharge, Hostile Work Environment, Sexual Harassment Claims Sufficiently Alleged Against NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services

In Mayorga v. Ira Greenberg, NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, 22-CV-387 (AMD) (RML), 2023 WL 6307994 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 2023), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of discrimination (based on gender, sexual orientation, race and national origin), constructive discharge, and hostile work environment sexual harassment under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that defendant commented about her gender, sexual orientation, race, and national origin; commented on plaintiff’s identity as a Hispanic woman; screamed at her; made degrading comments about her; used racist and sexist language; leered at her; treated male employees more favorably; and engaged in conduct that led her to take FMLA leave for medical treatment.

As to plaintiff’s claim of sexual harassment under state law, the court explained:

The defendant argues that the plaintiff has not alleged “severe or pervasive” “discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult” in the workplace sufficient to “alter the conditions of [her] employment and create an abusive working environment.” (ECF No. 43-1 at 25.)4 The NYSHRL was amended on October 11, 2019 to eliminate the “severe or pervasive” requirement in favor of a more lenient standard of liability. LeTtieri, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141914, at *34 n.15 (citation omitted).5 Courts construe the amended NYSHRL “liberally for the accomplishment of the remedial purposes thereof, regardless of whether federal civil rights laws including those laws with provisions worded comparably to the provisions of [the NYSHRL] have been so construed.” Id. (quoting McHenry v. Fox News Network, LLC, 510 F. Supp. 3d 51, 68 (S.D.N.Y. 2020)). Thus, the plaintiff need only allege that she was subjected to “inferior terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of the individual’s membership in one or more of the[ ] protected categories.” N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(1)(h).

The defendant’s argument is based the pre-2019 version of the NYSHRL. “Given [the defendant’s] reliance on an outdated standard, the Court is unable to conclude that … [he] established as a matter of law that [the plaintiff] has not stated a plausible claim for relief.” Wray v. Westchester Med. Ctr. Advanced Physician Servs., P.C., No. 21-CV-394, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142699, at *29 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 2022) (citation omitted).

In any event, the complaint easily satisfies the NYSHRL. As detailed above, the plaintiff describes multiple instances of the defendant’s “discriminatory, offensive, and sexually harassing behavior” that he “regularly targeted [at the plaintiff].” Quintero v. Angels of the World, No. 19-CV-6126, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172445, at *21 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2021); see id. at *23–24 (collecting cases with similar facts that satisfied the “severe or pervasive” standard).

The court further held that plaintiff likewise stated claims of discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment under the New York City Human Rights Law, noting that that statute does not have “separate standards” for such claims, but rather “proscribes imposing different terms, conditions and privileges of employment” based on protected characteristics.

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