September 10, 2019

Individual caring for an ailing family member is not a member of a protected class under New York State's Human Rights Law


In an action commenced pursuant to CPLR Article 78 and Executive Law §298, Plaintiff challenged the New York State Division of Human Rights' [SDHR] finding that there was no probable cause to believe that her employer [Employer] had engaged in any unlawful discriminatory practice against her. The Appellate Division affirmed the Supreme Court's decision denying Plaintiff's petition.

The Appellate Division explained that Plaintiff's challenging SDHR's determination of "no probable cause" with respect to her complaint based on her status as a caregiver for a member of her family failed as a matter of law as serving as a care giver for an ailing family member is not a protected activity under the State's Human Rights Law.

With respect to Plaintiff's allegation that her Employer discriminated against her based on its "perceiving" her to be disabled due to a mental illness or an addiction based on its making two inquiries concerning Plaintiff's behavior which Employer believed was unusual and, on one occasion, requiring her to undergo a drug test, the Appellate Division ruled that SDHR rationally concluded that those events alone did not establish that Plaintiff's Employer perceived her to be disabled due to an addiction or mental illness.

Significantly, the court noted that Plaintiff did not  allege that she suffered any adverse employment or personnel action resulting from those events or that she was subjected to "discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that [was] sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms or conditions of employment."

Noting that "probable cause" for the purposes of New York State's Human Rights Law "exists only when, after giving full credence to the complainant's version of the events, there is some evidence of unlawful discrimination," the Appellate Division opined that there was no evidence before SDHR sufficient to support Plaintiff's contention that she had been subjected to acts of unlawful discrimination by her Employer.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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