New York State's Human Rights Law bars discrimination against heterosexual individuals
Brennan v Metropolitan Opera Association, Inc, 284 AD2d 66
Martha Ellen Brennan claimed that “on the basis of her [heterosexual] sexual orientation, her former employer, the Metropolitan Opera Association (Met), her former supervisor at the Met, David Kneuss, and the Met's general manager, Joseph Volpe, refused to renew her contract and subjected her to a hostile work environment, in violation of New York City law.”
The essential elements of Brennan's multiple allegations: the Met refused to renew her employment contract and subjected her to a hostile work environment because of her age, her sex and her heterosexual orientation, thereby discriminating against her in violation of:
1. 42 USC 2000e-2[a], prohibiting discrimination “because of ... sex”;
2. 29 USC 623[a], prohibiting discrimination “because of ... age”;
3. New York's Executive Law Section 296[a], prohibiting discrimination “because of ... sex”; and
4. New York City's Administrative Code Section 8-107, prohibiting discrimination because of “actual or perceived ... sexual orientation”.
Following the dismissal of her federal age and sex discrimination claims by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, (Brennan v Metropolitan Opera Association, 192 F.3d 310), Brennan commenced an action in New York State Supreme Court action on her sexual orientation discrimination claims.
The Supreme Court justice, noting that this issue was one “of first impression,” ruled that Brennan “is protected, as a heterosexual female, under the New York City law against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.” The court explained: The fact that discrimination against heterosexuals is not as pervasive as that found against homosexuals does not change the clear wording of the municipal law nor does it lessen the impact of such prejudices on the individuals involved.
After making this finding, the Supreme Court justice granted the Mets' motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Brennan failed to show that her sexual orientation created a hostile work environment or was the reason for non-renewal of her contract. The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court's determination.
The Appellate Division said that for Brennan to prevail on her claim of a hostile work environment she must show that she was subjected to harassment based on her sexual orientation and that the harassment was so severe or pervasive as to “alter the conditions of [her] employment and create an abusive working environment,” citing Meritor Savings Bank v Vinson, 477 US 57, 67.
The Appellate Division pointed out that “first and foremost is the evidence” and Brennan “simply did not adduce sufficient evidence to sustain her claim that [the Met] created an environment hostile to heterosexuals.”
Brennan's case involved the lack of evidence sufficient to state a prima facie case of discrimination.
In contrast, “unrebutted evidence” of the complainant's prima facie case precludes administrative dismissal of unlawful discrimination charges. In Sauer v NYS Division of Human Rights Appellate Division, 285 AD2d 372, the Appellate Division annulled the New York State's Divisions of Human Rights dismissal of Vincent A. Sauer's age discrimination complaint and remanded it to the Division for an administrative hearing.
The Appellate Division said that Sauer's allegations that he was not hired because of his age and that younger Pan American Airways mechanics with less seniority, whom he specifically identified, were hired by Delta Airlines in his stead, are unrebutted by any evidence in the record.
According to the ruling, “Delta's unsigned and unsworn position statement, submitted in an attempt to settle [Sauer's] complaint,” in which Delta said that Sauer was not hired because he lacked sufficient seniority to be considered, was inadequate for that purpose.