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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Determining the amount of an award by the Division of Human Rights following its finding that an employee suffered discriminatory retaliation

Determining the amount of an award by the Division of Human Rights following its finding that an employee suffered discriminatory retaliation
Matter of Roy C. Bell v New York State Div. of Human Rights, 36 AD3d 1129

Roy Bell was a probationary elementary school physical education teacher employed by the New Paltz Central School District. Denied tenure, Bell filed a complaint with the State Division of Human Rights alleging that he was sexually harassed by his supervisor and was shortly thereafter denied tenure in retaliation for making a complaint to his union representative concerning the matter.

The Commissioner of Human Rights dismissed the sexual harassment charge but sustained the charge that the District had unlawfully retaliated against Bell for complaining to the union by denying him tenure.

The Commissioner awarded Bell $171,491, less withholdings and deductions for federal, state and local income taxes, as damages for back pay for the period between 1990 through 1998. The Commissioner also awarded Bell $25,000 in compensatory damages

Bell appealed the award, contending that the award of back pay was insufficient because, among other things, it failed to include certain stipends that he would have earned had his employment continued.

In reviewing the award, the Appellate Division held that:

● Based on the evidence, there was no reasonable basis to conclude that Bell would not have continued coaching for additional compensation had his employment not ended and, as such, the back pay award must be recalculated to reflect those additional coaching stipends.

● The Commissioner should not direct the District withhold deductions for federal, state and local income taxes as federal courts have held that an employer should not be permitted to pay less in a back pay award simply by deducting the taxes it assumes that the employee will owe on the award, because that would give “a benefit it has not earned [to the employer, who] had the entire use of the money during the litigation” citing Curl v Reavis, 608 F Supp 1265. However, Bell would remain personally responsible for his tax liability for those years, taking into account all applicable allowances or deductions.

● The Commissioner took all relevant factors into account, including the financial difficulties that petitioner experienced upon separation from his employment, and rendered an award “reasonably related to the discriminatory conduct” that the agency found to exist.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2007/2007_00367.htm



Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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