Articles Tagged with employment discrimination

The New York City Human Rights Law prohibits employment discrimination based on, among other things, an employee’s gender.  The law has plainly provided for punitive damages against employers who violate the law.  Punitive damages are generally available in cases as a way to dissuade others from engaging in similar unlawful conduct and to punish the wrongdoer.  On November 20, 2017, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest state court, settled the standard which courts should apply in deciding whether punitive damages should be allowed in a discrimination case.

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit in Federal Court

In Chauca v. Abraham, the employee was a physical therapy aide.  She sued her employer for sex and pregnancy discrimination, under the federal law Title VII, under the New York State Human Rights Law, and under the New York City Human Rights Law.  At trial, the employee’s lawyer asked the judge to instruct the jury to consider whether punitive damages were appropriate under the New York City Human Rights Law.  The court applied Title VII’s punitive damages standard which requires the employee to show malice, reckless indifference, or an intent to violate the law.  The court determined that the employee did not show any evidence of intent so the judge refused to instruct the jury to consider imposing punitive damages.

Employers are prohibited from discriminating against its employees based, among other things, on race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or familial status. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against its employees. This means that an employer cannot punish an employee for engaging in legally protected activity. For example, if an employee complains either to a supervisor or to an outside agency (such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) about workplace discrimination and the employee subsequently suffers a negative employment action as a result of making the complaint, the employer has unlawfully retaliated against its employee.

However, the law is filled with exceptions. One of the exceptions to employment discrimination and retaliation is called the “ministerial exception.” This exception was recognized by the United States Supreme Court in 2012 in the Hosanna-Tabor case where the Court found that a fourth grade teacher, who taught mainly non-religious subjects at a religious school, could not sue her employer for retaliation.

The Ministerial Exception in Employment Discrimination Cases

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