Court Grants Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel in Race Discrimination Case Against 643 Broadway Holdings LLC d/b/a Bleecker Kitchen & Co. and Joshua Berkowitz

On December 10, 2011, Michael S. Douglas, Jr. filed a race discrimination complaint in Manhattan Supreme Court against 643 Broadway Holdings LLC(d/b/a Bleecker Kitchen & Co.) and co-owner Joshua Berkowitz.   

The complaint alleges that Berkowitz racially harassed former Bleecker Kitchen & Co. restaurant manager Douglas during his employment with Bleecker.  The complaint further alleges that Berkowitz was not aware that Douglas, who is Filipino and African-American, was black, when Berkowitz, using coded words, counseled Mr. Douglas against hiring black servers.   

On March 2, 2016, the Honorable Eileen A. Rakower ordered Defendants to produce all of the hard copy and electronic documents sought in Plaintiff’s motion to compel, with the exception of documents related to Gold Bar or Defendants’ assets.

The Court further ordered Defendants to provide an affidavit from someone with knowledge of the search conducted concerning requests for which Defendants claim documents do not exist, or are not in Defendants', possession, custody, or control.

The Court’s Order is available here.

The case is Douglas v. 643 Broadway Holdings LLC d/b/a Bleecker Kitchen & Co. et al., Index No. 162179

Mr. Douglas is represented by Cyrus E. Dugger of the Dugger Law Firm, PLLC and James Halter and Asa Smith of Liddle & Robinson L.L.P.

CVS Store Detectives File Race Discrimination Class Action Alleging Forced Racial Profiling of Black and Latino Shoppers

As reported in the NY Times:

"Four former store detectives employed by CVS in New York filed a class-action lawsuit against the drugstore chain on Wednesday, accusing their bosses of ordering them to target black and Hispanic shoppers.
The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, also alleged that the detectives were fired after they complained about racial discrimination, against both customers and themselves.
The plaintiffs, all of whom are either black or Hispanic, contend in their suit that two supervisors in CVS’s loss-prevention department, overseeing stores in Manhattan and Queens, regularly told them to racially profile nonwhite shoppers. The suit says that one of the supervisors, Anthony Salvatore, routinely told subordinates that “black people always are the ones that are the thieves,” and that “lots of Hispanic people steal.” The second supervisor, Abdul Selene, frequently advised detectives, known at CVS as market investigators, to “watch the black and Hispanic people to catch more cases,” the suit said." (keep reading)

Supreme Court Rules Against Abercrombie & Fitch on Religious Discrimination Appeal

It has become a stirring and rare event for the Supreme Court to hand down a decision protecting or strengthening employee rights, but low and behold, it has occurred once more - with a decision from Justice Scalia:

"To prevail in a disparate-treatment claim, an applicant needshow only that his need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision, not that the employer had knowledgeof his need. Title VII’s disparate-treatment provision requires Elaufto show that Abercrombie (1) “fail[ed] . . . to hire” her (2) “because of ” (3) “[her] religion” (including a religious practice). 42 U. S. C. §2000e–2(a)(1). And its “because of” standard is understood to mean that the protected characteristic cannot be a “motivating factor” in an employment decision. §2000e–2(m). Thus, rather than imposing aknowledge standard, §2000e–2(a)(1) prohibits certain motives, regardless of the state of the actor’s knowledge: An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions. Title VII contains no knowledge requirement. Furthermore, Title VII’s definition of religion clearly indicates that failure-to-accommodate challenges can be brought as disparate-treatment claims. And Title VII gives favored treatment toreligious practices, rather than demanding that religious practices betreated no worse than other practices." (continue reading)
 

Can I Really Sue My Boss Individually in NYC – And What Does That Really Mean?

One important limitation of Title VII, the federal law that protects most employees at most larger companies from discrimination, is that the law only allows employees to hold the company liable.  

So, if an employee brings a claim because of a manager’s harassment under Title VII, only the company will ever have to directly pay an award of damages to the injured employee.  While the court may impose injunctive requirements on the company that affect the individual harasser, these injunctive requirements nonetheless still fall squarely on only the employer’s shoulders.  

For example, if the offending harasser leaves the organization, they will likely no longer be subject to any court-ordered injunctive requirements.

Of course, there may be internal consequences for the harassing supervisor, but any action taken against the harasser will be at the discretion of the company, not necessarily mandated by law.  While companies are usually not thrilled with supervisors who harass employees and cause them to file discrimination lawsuits, inevitably there are exceptions, where even successful lawsuits do not result in an employer fundamentally addressing issues of discrimination.

Given these limitations, technically a sexual harasser could harass many employees, resign when a lawsuit is filed, and leave without directly paying their victim(s) a single cent.

What’s an aggrieved employee to do?

Fortunately, in New York City and New York State, there are protections beyond those provided under Title VII by way of the New York City Human Rights Law  ("NYC Human Rights Law") and the New York State Human Rights Law.  

This post focuses on the unique aspects of the NYC Human Rights Law, one of the most protective anti-discrimination and retaliation statues in the country.

Under the NYC Human Rights Law, employees who meet the definition of a “supervisor” are personally liable for any discrimination they engage in.

You heard correctly.  Your supervisor may be personally liable, out of their own funds, for discrimination, along with a NYC employer.

Many NYC supervisors and other employees are likely surprised to hear this.  Indeed, it is likely that the vast majority of supervisors and other employees are unaware that this is the case in NYC.

This provision should certainly give all current and potential “supervisors” great pause with respect to their conduct in the office.   If their actions result in a lawsuit alleging discrimination or retaliation an employee, perhaps one who has no issue with the larger company -- only the specific supervisor -- could technically decide to only sue the supervisor in their personal capacity.  

While an employee is unlikely to take that route where he or she is not certain the supervisor (as opposed to the employer) could actually satisfy any judgment given their financial resources, this fact is something NYC supervisors are well-advised to keep in mind during their interactions in the workplace.

The protections of the NYC Human Rights Law not only include potential relief against individual supervisors, but, importantly, the standard for discrimination violations is also far more liberal than Title VII, making it much more likely that an employer and/or supervisor will be found liable for discrimination with respect to identical conduct.   

By way of example, in NYC, a supervisor can potentially find themselves liable for an employee’s emotional distress damages, as well as attorney’s fees and costs, by making a single harassing discriminatory statement to an employee.  

Each side may then certainly litigate the appropriate amount of emotional distress damages, but, in any event, the employee will, in many  circumstances, have an argument that the employer and/or supervisor are personally liable to them for emotional distress damages.

New York City is not only a unique place to live, it has a uniquely protective regime of anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws  that put employees on, at least, less unequal footing with supervisors when addressing discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.

A cautionary note, however, is that while the NYC Human Rights Law is expansive, it is not limitless.  Every workplace slight is not necessarily discrimination or retaliation, and you should consult with an attorney before assuming you have a potential claim against an employer and/or supervisor merely because you have been treated poorly or unfairly in the workplace.

The NYC Human Rights Law also does not apply to employers with less than five employees.


NY Times: New York City Discriminated in Paying Managers, Commission Finds

In what must be a highly disconcerting report for the progressive De Blasio administration:

A federal commission on fair employment practices found that New York City has engaged in a broad pattern of discrimination, paying minorities and women substantially less than their white male counterparts, and recommended on Monday that it pay hundreds of millions of dollars in back wages and other damages.
* * *
Specifically, the commission found that “structural and historic problems” have resulted in the pay of minorities and women being suppressed.
“This rate of pay is much less than their white male counterparts’ in similarly situated jobs and titles,” according to the commission’s findings.
After completing its investigation, the federal commission recommended that the city enter into conciliation efforts with the panel. If the city fails to make an offer by April 17 and enter conciliation talks, the matter will move to the Justice Department, which would most likely file suit against the city. (continue reading)

It will be very interesting to see what happens before the April 17 deadline.

The Dugger Law Firm, PLLC Has Filed a Sex Discrimination Class Action Against the NYC Department of Education, Principal Rashaunda Shaw, Ast. Principal Dayne McLean, and Ast. Principal Sharon Spann

 

The Dugger Law Firm, PLLC and The Law Office of Daniela Nanau, P.C. have filed a sex discrimination class action lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education, Globe School for Environmental Research (“Globe”) Principal Rashaunda Shaw, Globe Assistant Principal Dayne McLean, and Globe Assistant Principal Sharon Spann. 

Plaintiff Lisa B. Deleo alleges violations of Title VII, the New York City Human Rights Law, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.


The amended complaint alleges that Assistant Principal McLean repeatedly sexually harassed Ms. DeLeo, culminating in a confrontation in which Assistant Principal McLean sexually gyrated in front of Ms. DeLeo while she was alone in her office.  In addition, the amended complaint alleges that, following Ms. DeLeo’s complaints of harassment, the New York City Department of Education, Principal Shaw, Assistant Principal McLean, and Assistant Principal Spann retaliated against her because of her complaints.

The amended complaint also alleges that the New York City Department of Education, Principal Shaw, Assistant Principal McLean, and Assistant Principal Spann have created and/or permitted a sexually hostile and retaliatory hostile work environment for non-management female employees at Globe.

Ms. DeLeo seeks certification of a class of all non-management female employees at Globe, from January 2012 through the resolution of the lawsuit, against the New York City Department of Education, as well as Principal Shaw, Assistant Principal McLean, and Assistant Principal Spann in their individual capacities. 

The case is Deleo v. New York City Department of Education, No. 15 Civ. 00591, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.


Scientific America: Sick Days for Workers Keep Businesses Healthier

An excellent article from the Board of Editors of Scientific America on the overall benefits to businesses that result from liberal sick day policies:

Pushing employees with the flu or a stomach bug to drag themselves into the office means more absences, not fewer. Workers who are not able to take paid time off to see a doctor are more likely to take six or more sick days a year than are those who can take time off, according to a 2005 Commonwealth Fund report. Overall, workers who are ill while on the job account for anywhere between 18 to 60 percent of workforce productivity losses, according to a 2004 review of estimates in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. cdc data also show that employees without sick leave are more likely to get injured on the job and are less likely to get preventive health screening for cancer.
Experience suggests that paid sick leave does not hurt the bottom line. Sixteen U.S. cities and the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and California have passed regulations that typically allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours on the job. A 2013 audit by the city of Washington, D.C., found no evidence that its five-year-old paid sick leave law had prompted businesses to leave the area or discouraged new companies from coming in. On the West coast, San Francisco continued to outperform nearby Bay Area cities in job growth after it implemented a paid sick leave law in 2007. There are expenses: employers have to bear a small increase in base pay for employees who use leave, for instance. But productivity and public health benefits outweigh these costs. (link)

Of special potential concern to those opposing liberal sick leave policies should the implications of the absence of such polices with respect to their restaurant dining experience:

Data published in 2013 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that one in five restaurant workers clocked in even when they were suffering from diarrhea and vomiting, the two main symptoms of norovirus. That formidable group of nausea-inducing viruses causes about half of all foodborne illnesses in the U.S. Bringing those harmful microbes into the workplace puts customers at risk. (link)

Opponents of liberal sick day policies should remember . . . you are what you eat.

Although,  New York City recently passed a progressive sick day law, New York State has yet to do so.

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The Dugger Law Firm, PLLC & Outten & Golden LLP File Sex Discrimination Class Action Against Connecticut Department of Correction

On January 14, 2015, Denisha Davis filed a sex discrimination class action complaint in the District of Connecticut against the Connecticut Department of Correction. 

The lawsuit follows earlier litigation in Easterling v. Connecticut Department of Correction, in which a federal court held in 2011 that the state fitness test violated Title VII and found for the job applicant plaintiffs.  The new lawsuit alleges that the state’s revised physical fitness test – which modified only one aspect of the test from a 1.5-mile run to a 300-meter dash – continued to have an adverse impact on women.

 The press release is available here.

Are Women Penalized for Being the First to Volunteer in the Workplace?

This very interesting NY Times opinion piece (and the studies is cites) is a must read for human resources personnel and members of management involved in making promotion decisions.

A short overview of the argument:

"Women help more but benefit less from it. In keeping with deeply held gender stereotypes, we expect men to be ambitious and results-oriented, and women to be nurturing and communal. When a man offers to help, we shower him with praise and rewards. But when a woman helps, we feel less indebted. She’s communal, right? She wants to be a team player. The reverse is also true. When a woman declines to help a colleague, people like her less and her career suffers. But when a man says no, he faces no backlash. A man who doesn’t help is 'busy'; a woman is 'selfish.'" (link)

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