Last week, a New York Appellate Court in Manhattan upheld a judgment in an employment discrimination case awarding the plaintiff $1.2 million in punitive damages and $400,000 in compensatory damages, for a total award of $1.6 million. The plaintiff sued her former employer for violations of the New York City Human Rights Law, including for religious and sexual orientation discrimination.
According to the decision, the plaintiff worked as a chef in a restaurant. The evidence showed that the defendant held weekly prayer meetings at the restaurant which the staff believed were mandatory to attend. Further, the evidence showed that the defendant said on multiple occasions that homosexuality is a sin, gay people were going to hell, and other offensive anti-homosexual comments. Additionally, the evidence showed the defendants retaliated against the plaintiff after she objected to the discrimination.
The Court confirmed that the standard under the City Human Rights Law is different than under the State laws. It rejected the defendants’ argument that the plaintiff must have shown that the conduct was “severe and pervasive” and noted that the State law is more restrictive than the City.
The Court further noted that the $400,000 award for emotional distress did not “materially deviate” from awards in other cases and that the $1.2 million punitive damage award was not grossly excessive because of the extent of the discriminatory conduct shown by the evidence.
In sum, the decision is a strong reminder that the New York City Human Rights Law does not tolerate discrimination in the workplace and that employers found liable for discrimination may face significant damages awards.
If you think you’re facing discrimination in the workplace, the employment lawyers at Famighetti & Weinick, PLLC may be able to help. Contact us at 631-352-0050 or linycemploymentlaw.com