Employment discrimination laws prohibit a wide range of “adverse” actions that target an employee based on their race, gender, national origin, or other protected classification. For example, if an employer gives preferential treatment to male employees when it comes to deciding promotions or does not afford Hispanic workers an equal chance to earn a particular bonus, that would constitute illegal discrimination under federal and New York State laws.
NYC Judge Orders Retrial in Discrimination Case Against University
Proving such discrimination, however, can be difficult. Recently, a federal jury in Manhattan deadlocked on part of a national origin discrimination claim brought by a former part-time instructor at a prominent New York City-based school. The plaintiff, who was born in Cuba, alleged that he was passed over for a course assignment in favor of a less-qualified Caucasian.
As a part-time instructor, the plaintiff was paid based on the number of courses that he taught. Under a collective bargaining agreement between the defendant and a union representing the part-time faculty, there was a two-step process to make such assignments. During the first step, a full-time faculty member would determine whether a part-time instructor was “qualified” to teach a given class.
In this case, the plaintiff wanted to teach an introductory web design class. The faculty member in charge of assignments determined the plaintiff was not qualified. She then determined a Caucasian part-time instructor with less seniority than the plaintiff was qualified. Based on this, the plaintiff alleged that he was the victim of national origin discrimination.
Following trial, the jury found in favor of two individual defendants named in the plaintiff's lawsuit. But the jury deadlocked on whether the school itself violated federal, state, and New York City employment discrimination laws. The school then moved for a judgment as a matter of law on these charges.
The judge denied the defense motion and ordered a retrial on the deadlocked issues. Notwithstanding the first jury's deadlock, the judge said the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence from which another jury could reasonably find he was the victim of discrimination. Losing out on the chance to teach the web design class was an “adverse employment action” within the meaning of the law, and the jury could infer “discriminatory intent” based on the decision to hire the less-senior white candidate.
The judge further noted that under the more “lenient” standards of the New York City Human Rights Law, the plaintiff does not have to prove he suffered an “adverse employment action”–he only needs to show that the defendant treated him “less well” due to “discriminatory intent.”
Has Discrimination Affected Your Employment?
The fact that the initial jury in the above case deadlocked illustrates how often employment discrimination disputes are considered “close calls.” Discriminatory intent can be especially difficult to ascertain based on after-the-fact recollections of events. This is why it is critical to work with an experienced New York employment law attorney if you have been the victim of racial or national origin discrimination at work. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar in New York City or Long Island to speak with a lawyer today.