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New York Court Discusses Collateral Estoppel in Discrimination Cases

February 6, 2020

There is a saying in civil litigation that you only get one bite of the apple. In other words, you cannot attempt to re-litigate a claim merely because you received an unfavorable result. This tenet does not only apply to tort claims, but it also applies to employment discrimination claims, as discussed in a recent gender discrimination case decided by the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York. If you believe you suffered discrimination in the workplace due to your sex or gender, it is advisable to meet with a trusted New York sex discrimination attorney to discuss whether you may be able to assert a claim for damages.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the plaintiff filed an employment discrimination claim against the defendant employer, alleging she faced disparate treatment due to her gender and race in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing, in part, that the plaintiff could not re-litigate issues that were previously decided in a federal lawsuit arising out of the same alleged harm. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and plaintiff appealed.

Collateral Estoppel in the Realm of Employment Discrimination Cases

In affirming the trial court opinion, the appellate court stated that the trial court correctly ruled that collateral estoppel applied to any factual issues in the present action that were the same as the factual issues resolved by the federal court in dismissing plaintiff’s federal employment discrimination claims.

The appellate court explained that in applying collateral estoppel to the purely factual issues, the trial court correctly analyzed the plaintiff’s disparate treatment and employment discrimination claims under the more liberal standard of the NYCHRL and did not confuse the analysis with the federal standards. Instead, the trial court found that the plaintiff failed to show that a triable issue of fact existed with regard to her discrimination claims under the NYCHRL. Specifically, the plaintiff did not demonstrate that the defendant’s reason for terminating the plaintiff, namely the dissatisfaction with her skills as a video editor, was a pretext for firing her.

The appellate court also stated that the trial court correctly relied on the findings in the federal case that the record contradicted the plaintiff’s claims of unequal support in comparison to male co-workers in the same position. Lastly, the appellate court found that the trial court properly ruled that the plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of gender discrimination due to the fact that the plaintiff was replaced by a woman after she was terminated. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet With an Experienced Employment Attorney

If you were discriminated against based on your gender or sex, it is prudent to speak with an attorney to discuss what redress may be available for your harm. At Gerstman Schwartz LLP, our experienced New York employment discrimination attorneys have the skills and experience needed to provide you with the best chance of a favorable outcome under the facts of your case. You can reach us through our online form or by calling our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170 to schedule a complimentary and confidential conference.

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