Friday, November 07, 2014

Recent ruling by the Appellate Division concerning alleged unlawful discrimination


Recent ruling by the Appellate Division concerning alleged unlawful discrimination
Browne v Board of Educ, 2014 NY Slip Op 07465, Appellate Division, Second Department
Matter of Katz (Commissioner of Labor), 2014 NY Slip Op 07556, Appellate Division, Third Department

The Browne decision:

This decision by the Appellate Division illustrates the shifting of a party’s “burden of going forward” in litigating a complaint alleging unlawful discrimination.

Robert Browne attempted to recover damages for alleged employment discrimination on the basis of gender in violation of Executive Law §296.

The New York City Board of Education [Department] appalled so much of an order of the Supreme Court that denied its motion for summary judgment dismissing the cause of action in which Browne alleged employment discrimination based on gender.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling explaining that Browne, in opposing the Board’s “prima facie showing that there was a legitimate, raised a triable issue of fact as to whether the Department’s explanation was false, misleading, or incomplete, and thus, a pretext for discrimination.

Accordingly, said the court, the Supreme Court properly denied that branch of the Department’s motion for summary judgment dismissing Browne’s first cause of action, which alleged employment discrimination based on gender.

The Appellate Division also noted that the Department, by failing to raise collateral estoppel as an affirmative defense to Browne’s cause of action alleging employment discrimination either in its pre-answer motion to dismiss or in its answer, waived it, citing CPLR §3211[a][5],[e].


The Katz decision:

The Katz decision by the Appellate Division demonstrates a difficulty that resulted from an individual submitting his or her resignation from the position based on what the court characterized as the employee's “perceived  religious harassment” without first giving the employer an opportunity to investigate the matter.

Roberta B. Katzbegan working for an organization that provides vocational services for persons with disabilities and was being trained to assume the position of director of accounting.

Prior to accepting the job, Katz received the employer's assurance that her religious practices would be accommodated permitting her to leave work at 2:45 p.m. on Friday, December 7, 2012. Her trainer scheduled a meeting on that date from 2:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m., but told claimant that she could leave at 2:45 p.m. At 2:40 p.m. the trainer told Katz that she needed her to prepare a computer-generated report.

Katz told the trainer she could not complete the report within five minutes and the trainer agreed to prepare it herself. The trainer then asked Katz to log on to her computer to get a password the trainer needed to do the report. At 2:50 p.m. the trainer told Katz to leave.

Katz did not report to work the following Monday, but resigned from her position due to what she perceived was religious harassment.

Katz applied for unemployment insurance benefits and ultimately the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board ruled that she was disqualified from receiving such benefits because she had voluntarily left her employment without good cause. Katz appealed the Board's ruling.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s determination explaining regardless of the  “inappropriateness of the trainer's actions,” Katz resigned from her position without affording the employer an opportunity to investigate the matter or take corrective action.

Noting that Katz had emailed the employer announcing her resignation the Sunday after the incident and before she even discussed it with the employer's human resources manager, the court ruled that under these circumstances substantial evidence supported the Board's finding that Katz had voluntarily left her employment without good cause.

The Browne decision is posted on the Internet at:

The Katz decision is posted on the Internet at:


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/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions 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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