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Court Explains Discovery Permitted in Employment Discrimination Cases in New York

In employment discrimination cases in New York, a plaintiff will often allege that an employer treated the plaintiff differently than other employees in similar situations or positions. In such instances, evidence of such unequal treatment is critical to proving an employer’s liability. Employers may be reluctant to share certain documents and records, however, and may argue that they are either irrelevant or privileged. A plaintiff’s right to obtain materials necessary to the prosecution of a case were discussed in an opinion recently delivered by a New York court, in which an employer objected to the employee’s discovery requests seeking employment records. If you are the victim of discrimination in the workplace, it is advisable to meet with a trusted New York employment harassment attorney to assess what evidence you may need to prove liability.

The Plaintiff’s Allegations and Discovery Requests

Reportedly, the plaintiff was employed by the defendant as a safety manager on a project involving the renovation of a train station. The plaintiff was terminated approximately two months after she was hired. The defendant cited habitual lateness and other issues pertaining to the plaintiff’s performance as the reason she was terminated. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that her supervisor sexually harassed her throughout the course of her employment, and her rejection of his advances was the actual reason for her termination.

Allegedly, during the course of litigation, the plaintiff sent the defendant discovery requests, seeking documents regarding other employees who had engaged in or been terminated for engaging in the same conduct that the defendant alleged led to the plaintiff’s firing. The defendant opposed the requests, and the plaintiff filed a motion to compel. The court granted the motion in part, only ordering the defendant to produce information regarding other employees who were terminated for the same reason as the plaintiff. The plaintiff appealed.

Discovery Permitted in Employment Discrimination Cases in New York

The New York rules of civil procedure provide that parties must fully disclose all information that is necessary and material to the defense or prosecution of a case. The appellate court explained that whether something is necessary, and material is to be construed to broadly require the disclosure of any facts that may bear on the disputed issues, and that might assist in preparation for trial.

The court noted that a plaintiff can establish a prima facie case of discrimination by demonstrating disparate treatment. In other words, discrimination can be inferred if a plaintiff can show an employer treated the plaintiff less favorably than other employees in the same situation but who are not in the same protected class as the plaintiff. Based on the plaintiff’s allegations, the court found that the information sought was both necessary and material to the plaintiff’s claims. Thus, the court ordered the defendant to produce the entirety of documents requested.

Meet with an Experienced New York Attorney

Proving discrimination in the workplace may require employment and personnel records, and employees generally have a right to seek such documents. If you were discriminated against at work, you should meet with an attorney to discuss your potential claims. The experienced employment discrimination attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP are skilled at aiding employees in the pursuit of damages, and we will gather the evidence needed to help you pursue your claims. You can contact us via our form online or by calling us at our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170 to set up a conference.

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