Sex Discrimination, Retaliation Claims Resurrected From Dismissal in Suit Against NYS Dept. of Financial Services

In Seemungal v New York State Department of Financial Services, No. 1087, 151495/21, 2022-02913, 2023 N.Y. Slip Op. 06341, 2023 WL 8587657 (N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept., Dec. 12, 2023), the court – citing the “liberal construction” which must be applied to pleadings when ruling on a motion to dismiss – reversed a lower court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s sex discrimination and retaliation claims asserted under the New York State Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

Here, the motion court erred by requiring plaintiff on this motion to dismiss to “set forth … sufficient evidence to prove that defendants’ actions were rooted in discrimination, rather than … following protocol to ensure that plaintiff fulfilled his employment obligations” and requiring plaintiff “to show that there was a causal connection between plaintiff’s protected activity and the alleged retaliation.” Furthermore, rather than considering whether the four corners of the complaint assert facts “which taken together manifest any cause of action cognizable at law” (511 West 232nd Owners Corp. v. Jennifer Realty Co., 98 N.Y.2d 144, 152, 746 N.Y.S.2d 131, 773 N.E.2d 496 [2002]), the motion court made factual determinations that are clearly based on allegations asserted by defendants in documents attached to their motion. Considering plaintiff’s complaint under the liberal pleading standards, we find that he has adequately alleged a cause of action for sex discrimination.

Defendants were also not entitled to dismissal of plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim on the basis of the statute of limitations. Although, as plaintiff acknowledges, some events mentioned in the complaint occurred outside of the applicable three-year statute of limitations period, plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a “single continuing pattern of unlawful conduct extending into the limitations period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint” to survive the motion to dismiss (Crawford v. American Broadcasting Co., Inc., 216 A.D.3d 507, 507, 189 N.Y.S.3d 184 [1st Dept. 2023][internal quotation marks and brackets omitted]).

Plaintiff also adequately pleaded a cause of action for retaliation. To satisfy the knowledge requirement on a retaliation claim, nothing “more is necessary than general corporate knowledge that the plaintiff has engaged in a protected activity” (Gordon v. New York City Bd. of Educ., 232 F.3d 111, 117 [2d Cir. 2000]). Plaintiff sufficiently alleges general knowledge by his employer of his protected activity.

Accordingly, the court held that plaintiff’s complaint sufficiently alleges causes of action for sex discrimination and retaliation, such that defendant’s motion to dismiss should be denied.

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