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Morse v. Fidessa Corp.

Supreme Court, New York County

August 8, 2017

Christopher Morse, Plaintiff,
v.
Fidessa Corporation, Mark Ames, and Maria Mika, Defendants.

          For Plaintiff: Mark Lubelsky & Assocs., New York, New York

          For Defendants: Fox Rothschild LLP, New York, New York

          ARLENE P. BLUTH, J.

         The motion to dismiss by defendants' is denied and the cross-motion to amend the complaint is granted.

         Background

         This case requires this Court to define the reach of marital status discrimination claims under New York City's Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"). More specifically, this motion requires the Court to explore the limits of employer conduct towards an employee solely because of his perceived marriage.

         Plaintiff began working for defendant Fidessa Corporation ("Fidessa"), a financial services firm, around June 2001. Plaintiff continued his employment with Fidessa, except for a break between August 2006 and May 2007, until his termination on July 28, 2016.

         Plaintiff claims that he was fired due to his perceived relationship with Lael Wakefield. Plaintiff began this relationship with Wakefield in December 2004 and eventually married Wakefield in November 2006. Plaintiff later divorced Wakefield in September 2011, but continued to reside with her and their children. Plaintiff claims that Fidessa thought he and Wakefield were married at the time plaintiff was terminated.

         Wakefield was also employed by Fidessa. She worked at Fidessa from about January 2000 until May 2016, when she left Fidessa and began to work for another financial services firm. Plaintiff claims that right after Wakefield left, he was suspended (on June 25, 2016) and later fired in July 2016.

         Plaintiff alleges that defendant Ames told plaintiff that he was terminated due to plaintiff's marriage to Wakefield and that plaintiff would be considered for future employment if he ended his marriage to Wakefield. Plaintiff contends that his termination was not based on his performance at work, any misconduct, or because of any specific action he took while working for Fidessa. Plaintiff argues that he was fired because he was married (or perceived to be married or in a partnership) to Wakefield.

         Defendants move to dismiss on the ground that a claim for marital status discrimination does not encompass the identity of the person to whom someone is married. It only prohibits discrimination based on whether someone is married, single, divorced, etc.

         Discussion

         "On a CPLR 3211 motion to dismiss, the court will accept the facts as alleged in the complaint as true, accord plaintiffs the benefit of every possible favorable inference, and determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory" (Nonnon v City of New York, 9 N.Y.3d 825, 827, 842 ...


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