Thursday, November 12, 2009

New York City Anti-Discrimination Law Given Broad Reading

In Lampner v. Pryor Cashman, (NY Sup. Ct., Nov. 6, 2009), a New York state trial court ruled that the New York City Human Rights Law, as amended in 2005, creates greater protection against a hostile work environment than does New York state or federal law. The lawsuit was brought against a law firm by an Orthodox Jewish employee who worked as a computer system network manager for the firm. The employee scheduled his work so he could leave early on Fridays and not work on Saturdays or Jewish holidays. He claimed harassment due to his religious beliefs, including placing him in a cubicle, placing another employee of lower rank in his office, taking away his privileges, monitoring his phone conversations, and encouraging him not to continue observing his religious tenets. He also alleged a derogatory slur was directed at him. The court, relying on an appellate decision from a different state appellate district, held that a hostile work environment claim can be maintained even if the work environment was not permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult. So long as the offensive conduct was more than petty slights and trivial inconveniences, a violation has occurred. The severity of the conduct goes to assessing damages. Yesterday's New York Law Journal reported on the case. [Thanks to Joel Sogol via Religionlaw for the lead.]