A Brooklyn Assistant Principal Avoids Dismissal of Her Claim that She Was Targeted for Discrimination Because She Was Antiguan

Any successful employment discrimination case must begin with a well-written complaint. That complaint must properly plead sufficient factual allegations to support an “inference of discrimination.” Failure to do this may leave your case vulnerable to dismissal as a result of a motion filed by your employer. To protect yourself, make sure that you have the legal representation you need from a skilled and experienced New York employment discrimination lawyer from the very start.

In the discrimination case of a Brooklyn assistant principal, the issue was alleged adverse treatment based on the employee’s nationality.

M.B. was an Antiguan woman and a decades-long employee of the New York City Public Schools. She spent the last 18 years of her employment as an assistant principal at the same school in East Flatbush. Before her last year on the job, M.B. had never been “written up” for disciplinary issues.

According to the assistant principal’s lawsuit, the Department of Education twice passed her over for the role of principal, instead placing U.S.-born men in the role each time. The second of these two men allegedly assigned the assistant principal an “excessive workload” during the 2018-19 school year. That same principle, during the spring 2018 semester, told M.B., in response to her pursuit of potential career advancement, “that she was not going anywhere.”

The Supreme Court in New York County concluded that the assistant principal’s complaint made out a viable claim for national origin discrimination and denied the employer’s motion to dismiss.

One of the ways that you can sufficiently plead a claim of national origin discrimination — which M.B. used in her action — is that your employer treated you less favorably than a similarly situated worker outside your nationality group. In M.B.’s case, the school had two assistant principals, the other of whom was not Antiguan. She asserted that the school principal gave her an excessive workload, micromanaged her with “heightened scrutiny and discipline,” and eventually gave her an unjustified negative rating (“U-rating”) on her annual employment review. She also alleged that the principal did none of these things to the non-Antiguan assistant principal.

These assertions were enough to “permit an inference of discrimination,” according to the court.
In ruling for the assistant principal, the court made an important conclusion when it comes to comparators and the degree of similarity is required. A decade ago, a probationary special education teacher sued the department for race discrimination after she received a U-rating on her annual employment review. In that case, the Black teacher used White colleagues as the comparators for her argument. The Black teacher had allegations of distinctly disparate treatment, such as being “falsely accused of leaving her students alone, whereas a young male [White] teacher allegedly ‘left the building every day to move his car without informing the administration [and] was never disciplined.'”

The trial court, however, dismissed the teacher’s lawsuit, concluding that the White teachers were not sufficiently similar.

‘Liberal Pleading Standards’ and How They Can Help Your Case

Two years later, the Appellate Division court reversed that ruling. The appeals court said that, given the “liberal pleading standards applicable to employment discrimination claims under the State and City Human Rights Law,” the teacher had met her burden.

Following that caselaw, the trial judge in M.B.’s lawsuit determined that, even though the other assistant principal undisputedly lacked the same level of experience as M.B. had, the law’s liberal pleading standards were liberal enough to make M.B. and her less-experienced colleague sufficiently similar.

This employee’s success is a reminder that, at the motion-to-dismiss stage of a case, the law tilts in your favor. You still must have a strong complaint with well-pled allegations. Just know that, at this early juncture, the law recognizes “liberal pleading standards” and those standards work to help you.

If you’ve been harmed at work — perhaps you’ve even lost your job — because your employer punished you due to your national origin, that’s wrong and it’s illegal. National origin discrimination occurs more frequently than you might think. Each year, roughly 9-11% of all discrimination cases are national origin discrimination matters, placing it behind just disability discrimination, race discrimination, sex/gender discrimination, and age discrimination in terms of frequency.

The knowledgeable New York national origin discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates are proud to represent workers who have been hurt due to this form of employment discrimination. We have the skills and experience to be the effective advocate your case deserves, and we are fully committed to helping you seek justice. To find out more about how we can help you, contact us online or at (866) 229-9441 to set up a free and confidential consultation today.

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