Defeating Discrimination and Retaliation Claims Against Restaurant Operator

February 26, 2020

Epstein Becker Green recently helped a client that operates restaurants around the country achieve a victory against a discrimination and retaliation complaint filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights (“NYSDHR”).

After receiving a probable cause determination pursuant to an NYSDHR investigation, our client was determined to be vindicated at the hearing of this matter. And that is precisely what Epstein Becker Green helped the client achieve.

The complainant, a former restaurant server, brought sex, age, and disability-based discrimination claims, as well as a retaliation claim, against two of our client’s restaurants. Over the course of a four-day hearing, Epstein Becker Green attorneys elicited testimony from seven witnesses from both restaurants at which the complainant worked during her employment. The complainant’s case consisted of three witnesses (one of whom has a separate pending complaint against one of our client’s restaurants for sexual harassment and wrongful termination). This administrative forum was quite challenging for our client in that it permitted the admission of “hearsay evidence” (i.e., secondhand testimony), which the complainant attempted to use to her advantage.

Nevertheless, five months after the parties’ submission of lengthy post-trial briefing, the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) for the NYSDHR ruled completely in our client’s favor, dismissing all counts of the complaint. (It is also interesting to note that Epstein Becker Green made several procedural arguments, including a successful statute of limitations defense pursuant to which the ALJ dismissed one of the complainant’s discrimination-based claims as time-barred. Our attorneys were able to accomplish this result through pre-hearing in limine motions and oral argument.)

The Epstein Becker Green team responsible for this victory included Jeffrey H. Ruzal and Carly Baratt.