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July 2015

Gordon & Rees New York Team Wins Summary Judgment in Employment Retaliation Suit

New York partners Mercedes Colwin and Joseph Salvo, and associates Vincent Avery and Lauren Conston Wilke won complete summary judgment in an employment retaliation suit filed against one of the country’s largest retail chains in New York state court.

The plaintiff – a former employee – alleged claims for retaliation under the New York Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), arguing that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and ultimately constructively discharged because she objected to the termination of a co-worker as being unlawfully motivated by race. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that, following her objection, she was screamed at by her supervisor, subjected to excessive scrutiny, assigned demeaning job tasks, stripped of her ability to earn commission on certain sales, and subjected to a number of other employment actions she believed were retaliatory.

Notwithstanding these allegations and the extremely liberal standard that applies to hostile work environment claims under the NYCHRL, at the close of discovery, Gordon & Rees moved for summary judgment on the entirety of plaintiff’s lawsuit, arguing that plaintiff had failed to satisfy her prima facie case under the statutes, because the employment actions of which she complained did not individually or collectively give rise to a hostile work environment under the NYSHRL or NYCHRL, and she had failed to offer any evidence of a causal connection between such employment actions and her objection to the termination of her colleague. In addition, Gordon & Rees argued that the company had offered a legitimate reason for every employment decision plaintiff alleged was retaliatory, and plaintiff failed to offer any evidence that such reasons were pretextual or that retaliation was otherwise a motivating factor behind the challenged employment actions.

Agreeing with Gordon & Rees’ characterization of the plaintiff’s claims and evidence, the court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint in full, holding that plaintiff had failed to establish that she had been subject to an actionable hostile work environment or that any of the employment actions in question were causally related to her statutorily-protected objections regarding her co-worker’s termination.

Mercedes Colwin
Joseph Salvo
Lauren Conston Wilke



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