NYCHRL Discrimination Claim, Based on Conviction Record, Survives Dismissal

In Sanchez v. Hersha Hospitality Trust, No. 155483/2022, 2024 WL 129992 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Jan. 11, 2024), the court, inter alia, held that plaintiff sufficiently asserted a claim of discrimination based on criminal conviction history under the New York City Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

Plaintiff has sufficiently pled a prima facie case that he was terminated by defendants because of his criminal conviction history; by showing that individuals with a conviction history is a protected class pursuant to NYCHRL; that he was qualified for his position as he received a conditional offer; and that he was terminated four days after defendants received the background search results which indicated plaintiff has a conviction history, giving rise to an inference of discrimination … Plaintiff’s complaint contains factual allegations showing that plaintiff’s employment was terminated under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. … To overcome a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff need only give plausible support to a minimal inference of discriminatory motivation.

An inference of discrimination can be shown by an allegation that a decisionmaker made a remark reflecting discriminatory intent. In this instance, plaintiff has alleged an inference of discrimination by alleging that defendant Hodge told him, “Sorry, we found out that you have a criminal background, so we’re going to let you go”. Plaintiff’s complaint “contains allegations, comments, or references to plaintiff’s criminal background made by an employee of defendants.”

Here, accepting the facts as alleged in the complaint as true, and according plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference, the complaint sufficiently alleges circumstances which give rise to an inference of . . . discrimination and adequately states a cause of action pursuant to the NYCHRL.

[Cleaned up; citations and internal quotation marks omitted.]

The court further determined that it would not consider defendants’ proffered “nondiscriminatory reason” – that plaintiff allegedly lied on his employment application – since such a reason “cannot be considered on a motion to dismiss” and any inquiry into same “is reserved for summary judgment or trial.”

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