Who Can Be a Defendant in a Discrimination Lawsuit?
New York City anti-discrimination law gives employees the right to sue an employer for discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Act.
Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C. has decades of experience defending employers in discrimination lawsuits. Consequently, we took notice regarding this recent landmark ruling rendered by the Court of Appeals.
Details of the Case and the Court’s Decision Based on New York City Anti-discrimination Law
In Doe v. Bloomberg, L.P., the plaintiff (name kept anonymous) alleged being subjected to sex discrimination and a hostile work environment at Bloomberg, L.P. She claimed that her direct supervisor Nicholas Ferris, engaged in a continuous pattern of sexual harassment, including rape.
The lawsuit also named Mike Bloomberg, the Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of Bloomberg, L.P. as a defendant in the case. She claimed that he had fostered and encouraged a work environment with “sexist and sexually charged behavior.” However, she did not claim that Bloomberg had any personal participation related to the offending conduct.
Legal Basis for the Court’s Ruling
The anti-discrimination statute allows for liability when “the employer knew of the employee’s or agent’s discriminatory conduct and acquiesced in such conduct or failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.” It also recognizes liability when the “employer should have known of the employee’s or agent’s discriminatory conduct.”
However, the point at issue in this case was that the term “employer” was not defined clearly. This fact resulted in confusion when determining who was an employer in the context of the statute.
The court decided that “employer” based on New York City Human Rights Law does not include the shareholders, limited partners or agents. If they have no discriminatory conduct of their own, or have not aided and abetted others’ discriminatory conduct or retaliated, they are not legally liable.
This ruling established a significant precedent for cases brought against a group of defendants.