Tuesday, October 27, 2015

An allegation of retaliation in violation of Executive Law § 296(1).

Practice point:   Plaintiff is an Asian-American woman who served as defendant's comptroller. She alleges that defendant terminated her employment in retaliation because she cooperated and provided testimony to a grand jury regarding alleged criminal activity of a city councilperson, and that defendant subsequently hired a less qualified, white male to fill her former position.  Defendant moved pursuant to CPLR 3211(a) to dismiss the complaint, the Supreme Court denied the motion, and the Appellate Division reversed.

The Appellate Division held that the complaint fails to state a cause of action alleging retaliation in violation of Executive Law § 296(1)(e), which makes it unlawful to retaliate against an employee because he or she opposed statutorily forbidden discriminatory practices.  To make a prima facie showing of retaliation under the statute, a claimant must show that (1) the claimant was engaged in protected activity; (2) the claimant's employer was aware that he or she participated in such activity; (3) the claimant suffered an adverse employment action based upon his or her activity; and (4) there was a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action.  An employee engages in a protected activity by opposing or complaining about unlawful discrimination.  Here, plaintiff's grand jury testimony was unrelated to opposing or complaining about statutorily prohibited discrimination, and, therefore, was not protected activity within the meaning of the statute.

Student note:  In considering a CPLR 3211(a)(7) motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action, the court must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true; afford the plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference; and determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory.

Case:  Clarson v. City of Long Beach, NY Slip Op 07614 (2d Dept. 2015

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow's issue:  Summary judgment in an auto accident action.