July, 2013 Discrimination Law Update: New York Courts Buck the National Trend with Decisions that Enhance Workplace Protection under NYCHRL

Although we have just approached the midpoint of 2013, it is already apparent that this year will long be remembered for its paradigm-shifting changes in civil rights law.

On the federal level, there has been an alarming rollback of civil rights protections. The U.S. Supreme Court’s curtailment of voting rights has been particularly painful for discrimination lawyers. On June 25, 2013, the website The Daily Beast characterized the Supreme Court’s decision striking down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as marking “the End of the Civil-Rights Era”. Southern states have already rushed ahead with voting restrictions that have the effect, if not the explicit intention, of curtailing voting on the part of their African American and Hispanic residents. It remains to be seen whether our nation’s divided Congress will be able to enact legislation to remedy this deplorable situation.

Also on the federal level, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Rules of Civil Procedure has proposed a new “proportionality” standard that would likely reduce the ability of employment discrimination plaintiffs to obtain discovery regarding the employment practices and conduct of defendant-employers. Among other proposed changes, the presumptive number of depositions would be reduced from 10 to five, and the time limit for each oral deposition would be reduced from seven to six hours. The presumptive number of written interrogatories would be reduced from 25 to 15.

In stark contrast to the negative national developments, New York discrimination attorneys have reason for celebration. In two separate decisions, New York courts have explicitly acknowledged that the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) is more protective than federal law of employment discrimination victims.

On April 26, 2013, the Second Circuit ruled in Milhalik v. Credit Agricole Cheuvreux North America, Inc. that discrimination claims brought under the NYCHRL must be construed “more broadly in favor of discrimination plaintiffs” than claims brought under the more restrictive state (New York State Human Rights Law) and federal (Title VII) anti-discrimination statutes.

Just days earlier, Justice Edmead of the New York County Supreme Court issued a decision in which she reached a strikingly similar conclusion. The decision, which was issued in the case Davis v. Phoenix Art, S.A., contains an informative and extremely useful discussion of the lenient pleading requirements that apply to employment discrimination cases filed under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

At this juncture, state and federal courts in New York have explicitly accepted that the purpose of the New York City Human Rights Law is more protective of employees than other laws. The bottom line: New York City confers upon its residents more legal protections against discrimination than virtually any other location in the nation.

The New York discrimination attorneys at Rapaport Law Firm, PLLC, have represented employees since 1995. We regularly appear in federal and state courts throughout New York and New Jersey, and we have obtained verdicts and settlements against some of the largest corporations in the world.

If you have experienced discrimination in your workplace, contact Rapaport Law Firm today:
ph (212) 382-1600.

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