Race Discrimination, Sexual Harassment Claims Sufficiently Alleged Against NYC Board of Education

In Eustache v Board of Education of City School District of City of New York, No. 153619/19, 2022-01128, 998, 2023 N.Y. Slip Op. 05684, 2023 WL 7497614 (N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept., Nov. 14, 2023), the court, inter alia, modified a lower court order, to deny the Department of Education’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s race- and sex-discrimination (sexual harassment) claims asserted under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

From the decision:

Applying the lenient notice-pleading standard afforded to discrimination claims (Vig v. New York Hairspray Co., L.P., 67 A.D.3d 140, 145, 885 N.Y.S.2d 74 [1st Dept. 2009]), plaintiff alleged that he was subjected to race discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law (State HRL) (Executive Law § 296) and New York City Human Rights Law (Administrative Code of City of N.Y. § 8–107). Plaintiff alleged that defendant LaFia texted him inappropriate messages on multiple occasions, including by explicitly propositioning him to engage with her sexually and by making unwanted physical contact with him (see e.g. Crookendale v. New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 175 A.D.3d 1132, 107 N.Y.S.3d 282 [1st Dept. 2019]; see also La Porta v. Alacra, Inc., 142 A.D.3d 851, 852, 38 N.Y.S.3d 20 [1st Dept. 2016]). LaFia’s alleged comments about plaintiff’s race, in the context of her sexual harassment, signaled her discriminatory views on race in the workplace (Hernandez v. Kaisman, 103 A.D.3d 106, 114–115, 957 N.Y.S.2d 53 [1st Dept. 2012]). Moreover, the complaint sufficiently alleges facts that impute liability on DOE for failing to take immediate and appropriate corrective action after being notified of LaFia’s conduct (see Administrative Code § 8–107[13][b]; see Doe v. Bloomberg, L.P., 36 N.Y.3d 450, 454–455, 143 N.Y.S.3d 286, 167 N.E.3d 454 [2021]). Plaintiff also sufficiently alleges that, due to his race and/or gender, his sexual harassment complaint was not taken seriously or appropriately investigated by DOE and he was disciplined more harshly than other employees (see Petit v. Department of Educ. of City of N.Y., 177 A.D.3d 402, 403, 113 N.Y.S.3d 30 [1st Dept. 2019]).

The court held, however, that plaintiff’s claims against individual defendant LaFia were properly dismissed, since plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege that she “had any authority over the terms, conditions, or privileges of his employment.”

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