What Happens if the State Does Not Believe My Employment Discrimination Claim?

If you suffer from discrimination in the workplace, you have the right to file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR). The Division then has 180 days to determine whether there is “probable cause to believe” that the accused employer “has engaged or is engaged in an unlawful discriminatory practice” and take appropriate legal action in response. If the Division concludes probable cause does not exist, the employee may commence an Article 78 proceeding to appeal that decision.

Judge Rules Division Conducted “Adequate Investigation” Into Ex-COO's Discrimination Case

It is important to understand, however, that judges will not second-guess the Division simply because the employee disagrees with the decision. The courts will only reverse the Division when its decision was either “arbitrary and capricious” or lacked a “rational basis” according to the evidence presented. Put another way, a judge will only grant an Article 78 petition if the Division outright failed to conduct a proper investigation and rejected the employmee's discrimination claim without providing a logical explanation.

Here is a recent example in which an employee failed to clear this bar. The petitioner in this case was a 51-year-old woman of Chinese origin. She previously worked as chief operating office of a manufacturing company. At some point, the company was acquired by its present owner.

Following the acquisition, the new owner kept the petitioner in her position. But according to court documents, the employer-employee relationship “deteriorated,” culminating in the petitioner's resignation. She subsequently filed a petition with the Division, alleging her resignation was the result of the respondent's age, sex, racial, and national origin discrimination.

Approximately six months later, the Division issued a determination “finding no probable cause” to support the petitioner's discrimination complaint. The petitioner then filed an Article 78 proceeding against the Division. In a July 23 opinion, a state supreme court judge denied the petition.

The judge noted that, contrary to the petitioner's assertions, the Division conducted an “adequate investigation” into her discrimination charge. The Division “reviewed the petitioner's complaint” and the employer's response, and conducted follow-up conferences with several witnesses. The petitioner was then given an opportunity to review the witness statements and respond to them. Given this, the judge said the “the Division's investigation was sufficient and afforded petitioner ample opportunity to present her claims.”

The judge further rejected the petitioner's argument that the “Division improperly weighed the evidence and resolved issues of credibility in favor of” her former employer. More precisely, the judge said it was not the court's function in an Article 78 proceeding to re-weigh the evidence. Instead, “The sole inquiry before the Court is whether the Division's ultimate determination is supported by a rational basis,” which the judge said it was.

Contact a New York City Employment Attorney Today

Before presenting any type of discrimination claim, whether before the Division or another government body, it is critical to gather as much as evidence as possible. A qualified New York employment attorney can assist you in this area. Contact the Law Offices of White, Nisar & Hilferty, LLP, if you have been affected by workplace discrimination and require legal advice on what steps to take next.