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Sandiford v. City of New York Dept. of Education

Court of Appeals of New York

October 17, 2013

Ayodele SANDIFORD, Respondent,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION et al., Appellants, et al., Defendants.

[977 N.Y.S.2d 700] Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel, New York City (Susan Greenberg, Mordecai Newman, Leonard Koerner and Larry A. Sonnenshein of counsel), for appellants.

Meenan & Associates, LLC, New York City (Colleen M. Meenan and Shelley-Ann Quilty of counsel), for respondent.

Ritz Clark & Ben-Asher LLP, New York City (Miriam F. Clark of counsel), for National Employment Lawyers Association/New York, amicus curiae.

Page 915

OPINION

MEMORANDUM.

[999 N.E.2d 1145] The order of the Appellate Division should be affirmed, with costs, and the certified question answered in the affirmative.

Plaintiff has introduced evidence sufficient to withstand defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing her discrimination and retaliation claims under provisions of the New York City and New York State Human Rights Laws (Administrative Code of City of N.Y. §§ 8-101, 8-107[1], [7], [13][a], [b]; Executive Law § 296[1][a],[e] ) arising out of her

Page 916

termination for misconduct as a school aide by the principal of PS 181 in Brooklyn.[1]

Triable issues of fact exist as to whether the principal's stated reason for terminating plaintiff was " merely a pretext for discrimination" ( see Forrest v. Jewish Guild for the Blind, 3 N.Y.3d 295, 305, 786 N.Y.S.2d 382, 819 N.E.2d 998 [2004] ),[2] and whether, absent a discriminatory motive, [999 N.E.2d 1146] [977 N.Y.S.2d 701] the referral of plaintiff to the Office of Special Investigations and the principal's subsequent decision to terminate plaintiff would have occurred ( see Michaelis v. State of New York, 258 A.D.2d 693, 694, 685 N.Y.S.2d 325 [3d Dept.1999], lv. denied 93 N.Y.2d 806, 689 N.Y.S.2d 708, 711 N.E.2d 984 [1999]; Raskin v. Wyatt Co., 125 F.3d 55, 60 [2d Cir.1997] ). Defendants are of course correct that evidence only that the principal made stray discriminatory comments without any basis for inferring a connection to the termination would be insufficient to defeat defendants' motion ( see Forrest, 3 N.Y.3d at 308, 786 N.Y.S.2d 382, 819 N.E.2d 998 [comments made years before the plaintiffs termination failed to raise a triable issue of fact in light of the clear evidence of plaintiff's misconduct] ). But that is not the case here. Plaintiff has offered evidence of, among other things: defendant principal's repeated homophobic remarks directed at plaintiff; his decision to report to the Department of Education (DOE) allegations that plaintiff had engaged in misconduct while working at an after-school program that he did not supervise; his close relationship with the alleged victims of the misconduct; his independent decision to terminate plaintiff's employment; and the after-school program supervisor's opinion that plaintiff had not engaged in any misconduct worthy of reporting to the DOE. This is sufficient to deny defendants' motion for summary dismissal.

There are triable issues of fact also with respect to assertions that the principal retaliated against plaintiff for complaining to

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the DOE about his treatment of her ( see Forrest, 3 N.Y.3d at 312-313, 786 N.Y.S.2d 382, 819 N.E.2d 998).

Chief Judge LIPPMAN and Judges GRAFFEO, READ, SMITH, PIGOTT, RIVERA and ABDUS-SALAAM concur.

Order affirmed, with costs, and certified question answered in the affirmative, in a memorandum.


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