Discrimination Claim Dismissed, on Res Judicata Grounds, Due to Federal Court Determination

In Dedewo v. CBS Corp., No. 158386/2022, 2024 WL 184496, 2024 N.Y. Slip Op. 30217(U) (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Jan. 16, 2024), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim of discrimination on the ground of “res judicata”.

From the decision:

As to discrimination, the elements necessary for a claim under the NYCHRL are similar to those under the federal law, but a plaintiff only needs to show she was “treated less well” than other employees because of her protected status (see Williams v New York City Hous. Auth., 61 AD3d 62, 78 [1st Dept 2009]). Moreover, plaintiff only needs to prove that discrimination was one of the motivating factors for an adverse action (see Melman v Montefiore Med. Ctr., 98 AD3d 107, 127 [1st Dept 2012]).

In the federal action, the court determined that plaintiff’s conduct leading to her termination was more severe than the alleged comparators and that plaintiff was fired for defying her supervisors’ orders, taking an unauthorized vacation, and showing up late in returning to work (see Dedewo v CBS Corp., 2022 WL 1031588, at *7 [SDNY Apr. 5, 2022]). The court found that “there **4 is nothing in the record that would allow a reasonable juror to conclude that racial animus was more likely than not the real reason for her termination” (id.). Rather, “[p]laintiff was fired for cause, not because she was black (or female)” (id.). After reviewing the evidence, the federal court previously found that discrimination was not a factor at all in plaintiff’s termination. Thus, plaintiff is estopped from arguing that her termination was the result of discrimination, even under a more liberal standard.

The court further granted defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim of retaliation, since “the basis for her termination pre-dated her protected activity and her own misconduct – going on an unauthorized vacation and her dishonesty about it – severed the chain of causation.”

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