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September 26, 2016

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court is to give allegations in the complaint a liberal construction and consider facts alleged in the complaint true


In considering a motion to dismiss, the court is to give allegations in the complaint a liberal construction and consider facts alleged in the complaint true
Kaplan v New York City Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene, 2016 NY Slip Op 06063, Appellate Division, Second Department

Constance Kaplan was serving with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene [HMH] as a temporary worker. She alleged that after notifying HMH that she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor during a training session and intended to sue under the relevant human rights laws she was terminated from her position. She also alleged that her dismissal constituted reprisal for taking action to seek redress for the supervisor’s alleged sexual harassment.

Supreme Court granted HMH’s motion to dismiss Kaplan's petition alleging sexual harassment pursuant to New York City’s Human Rights Law “for failing to state a cause of action." The court granted HLMH's motion after determining that Kaplan's failed to show that the behavior of her supervisor "constituted more than a petty slight or trivial inconvenience"

The Appellate Division disagreed with Supreme Court’s ruling and said that the lower court should have given Kaplan’s complaint a liberal construction and accepted all facts alleged in the complaint to be true. Further, said the court, a contention that the behavior being complained of “was a petty slight or trivial inconvenience” constituted an affirmative defense, which should be raised in HMH’s answer, and did not lend itself to a pre-answer motion to dismiss. 

A motion to dismiss, said the Appellate Division, “merely addresses the adequacy of the pleading, and does not reach the substantive merits of a party's cause of action.”

The Appellate Division also found that Supreme Court erred in dismissing Kaplan’s cause of action alleging retaliation within the meaning of both the State’s and the City’s human rights laws. 

Kaplan had alleged in her complaint that her employment was terminated approximately two weeks after she informed HMH of her claims of sexual harassment and advised it of her intent to sue. Viewed in the light most favorable to Kaplan, the Appellate Division concluded that these allegations stated a cause of action alleging retaliation within the meaning of the State’s Human Rights Law and New York City’s Human Rights Law, the latter being "more liberal that its state counterpart.”

HMH had also submitted several emails in support of its motion to dismiss which it contended established that Kaplan was not discharged from her employment. 

The Appellate Division said that the emails submitted by HMH did not establish that Kaplan’s allegation that she was discharged from her employment “is not a fact.” Again the Appellate Division found that “Supreme Court erred in determining that emails from [Kaplan] and her temporary employment agency constituted party admissions and were admissible under an exception to the hearsay rule,” as the emails HMH relied upon were not inconsistent with Kaplan’s position that she was terminated from her employment.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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