Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The notice of termination itself constitutes an adverse employment action, even when the employer later rescinds the termination. The Second Circuit held that plaintiff's notice of termination in this case was itself an adverse employment action, despite its later revocation; likewise, the court saw no reason to construe plaintiff's Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claim differently from her Title VII claim with respect to whether the rescission of a notice of termination given to a pregnant employee establishes as a matter of law that the notice may not constitute an adverse employment action; the facts alleged were insufficient to establish constructive discharge nor a hostile work environment; plaintiff's retaliation claim was properly dismissed; and because plaintiff did state a plausible claim of discriminatory termination, and interference with her FMLA rights, the district court should reconsider on remand its decision to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state and city law claims. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Shultz v. Shearith" on Justia Law

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Defendants, the City of New York and NYPD officers, filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the district court's denial of their motion for judgment on the pleadings. At issue was whether the NYPD officers were entitled to qualified immunity from plaintiff's false arrest and imprisonment claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and whether the court should exercise pendant jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims against defendants. The court held that, because the officers had arguable probable cause to arrest plaintiff for obstructing governmental administration, 19 N.Y. Penal Law 195.05, and refusing to comply with a lawful order to disperse, N.Y. Penal Law 240.20(6), they were entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, the court reversed as to the federal and state false arrest and imprisonment claims, and dismissed the remainder of the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. View "Kass v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's determination that plaintiff asserted claims only under federal law, its dismissal of claims against the individual defendants, and its dismissal of plaintiff's hostile work environment claim. At issue in this appeal was whether a pro se litigant forfeits her claims under New York state and local discrimination law where she has alleged facts supporting such claims, but fails to check a blank on a form complaint indicating that she wishes to bring them. The court held that such a bright-line rule runs counter to the court's policy of liberally construing pro se submissions, and that plaintiff's complaint in this case should have been read by the district court to assert claims under New York state and local discrimination law as well as under federal law. The court addressed the balance of plaintiff's claims on appeal in a summary order issued simultaneously with this opinion, and remanded for further proceedings. View "McLeod v. The Jewish Guild for the Blind" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment in favor of defendants, agreeing with plaintiff that the district court wrongly instructed the jury that "but for" causation applied to Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claims. The court held that FMLA retaliation claims of the sort plaintiff brought here were grounded in 29 U.S.C. 2615(a)(1) and a "motivating factor" causation standard applied to those claims. The court also held that the district court exceeded the bounds of its discretion in admitting and permitting the adverse inferences to be drawn in this case. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Woods v. START Treatment & Recovery Centers" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former principal of a Roman Catholic school, filed suit alleging that she was terminated on the basis of unlawful gender discrimination and retaliation. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants, holding that the ministerial exception barred plaintiffʹs employment‐discrimination claims because in her role as principal she was a minister within the meaning of the exception. The court explained that, although her formal title was not inherently religious, the record clearly established that she held herself out as a spiritual leader of the school, and that she performed many significant religious functions to advance its religious mission. View "Fratello v. Archdiocese of New York" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment finding that defendant, a police officer, did not use excessive force in the fatal shooting of Kevin Callahan. The court held that the jury instruction regarding the legal justification for the use of deadly force by a police officer did not comply with the court's prior decision in Rasanen v. Doe, 723 F.3d 325 (2d Cir. 2013). The error was not harmless, and the court remanded for a new trial. View "Callahan v. City of Suffolk" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of attempted criminal contempt in the second degree and harassment in the second degree, petitioned for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Petitioner was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge, with the condition that she abide by a two-year order of protection. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the petition, holding that the order of protection did not place her "in custody" for purposes of section 2254(a). View "Vega v. Schneiderman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant and the University, alleging a claim of retaliation based on his complaint of sexual harassment. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss. The Second Circuit applied the plausibility standard to plaintiff's retaliation claim and held that it was plausible that he was denied a teaching position after he declined sexual approaches from the man who was his teacher and the department chair. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded for further consideration of the retaliation claims. View "Irrera v. Humpherys" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that defendant, the principal of Capital Prep, violated plaintiff's First Amendment right of freedom of assembly and his state-law right to be free from the intentional infliction of emotional distress in banning plaintiff from attending virtually all Capital Prep events, on or off school property, because of his opposition to defendant's bullying and harassing efforts to compel plaintiff's daughter to remain a member of the girls varsity basketball team. The district court denied defendant's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The Second Circuit dismissed the appeal insofar as it related to the claimed due process violation, holding that the claim was not properly before the court. As to the First Amendment claim, the court held that defendant's motion for summary judgment was properly denied to the extent that plaintiff complained of being banned from events beyond school property and from sports contests on school property to which the public was invited; but defendant was entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law to the extent that he banned plaintiff from school property otherwise. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and dismissed in part. View "Johnson v. Perry" on Justia Law

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A nolle prosequi constitutes a "favorable termination" for the purpose of determining when a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim accrues. In this case, plaintiff filed suit against defendant, a police officer, under section 1983, alleging malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court held that plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim accrued when the nolle prosequi was entered, and that as a result his suit was time‐ barred. The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that plaintiff's claim accrued when the charges against him were nolled. View "Spak v. Phillips" on Justia Law