New York City is undeniably more liberal than most other places in America. So it should be no surprise that it has one of the most protective anti-discrimination statutes in the country.
In contrast, federal discrimination claims often face difficult hurdles. There are countless situations where behavior that is objectively discriminatory, would not make it far as a discrimination claim under only federal law.
The result is that clearly discriminatory conduct goes unpunished, not because it is not discrimination, but because discrimination law has a standard, either judge made, or based on the text of the statute, that is very conservative - demanding at times incredibly exacting evidentiary support.
But what about situations that are clearly discriminatory, but where there is a “smart discriminator”? A discriminator who fails to leave a helpful document trail clearly showing the reason they did what they did was based on discrimination or retaliation.
Or what about instances that are discriminatory, but where the courts are be hesitant to find discriminatory because the conduct is viewed by some merely as passing slights?
Enter stage left – the New York City Human Rights Law, which applies less demanding standards for finding conduct to be discriminatory compared to its federal and state counterparts.
In fact, there are some pretty striking examples where the NYC law supported a discrimination lawsuit that might not have made it far in court under only federal law.
Here is one:
At an administrative hearing, a restaurant, a place of public accommodation under Administrative Code section 8-102(9), was found to have engaged in discrimination against an African American customer by asking her to pay for her food before receiving it, while three non-African American customers were not required to pay for their food until receiving their food orders. Respondents failed to demonstrate a legitimate, non-discriminatory motive for treating the African American customer differently.
Annotated NYC Administrative Code 8-107
Importantly, just this one instance was enough to find the restaurant liable for discrimination.
The restaurant was ultimately fined $5,000.
Amazingly, the restaurant did this to a “tester” from the New York City Commission on Human Rights – i.e. an employee of the Commission.
You can read the final decision and previous history here.
Come back for additional case studies demonstrating the distinction between federal and NYCHRL discrimination standards.