The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff’s employment discrimination action could go forward:
Plaintiff, Stevenson Petit, commenced this employment discrimination action on or about July 1, 2016, against his former employer, the Department of Education (DOE). Plaintiff was hired by the DOE in 1994 as a paraprofessional. In 2010, he became a guidance counselor at the Tilden Educational Campus and received tenure.
Plaintiff, a 55-year-old black male from Haiti, who alleges that he studied voodoo, but does not practice it, asserts that he was discriminated against by the principal of the school, Marina Vinitskaya (a Caucasian woman), due to his Haitian origin and her belief that he is a voodoo priest. Since his hiring in 2010, plaintiff had no performance issues until Vinitskaya became the school’s principal in the 2008-2009 school year. He asserts that Principal Vinitskaya then began creating a hostile work environment, by targeting him due to his Haitian origin. Plaintiff asserts that Principal Vinitskaya falsely accused him of misconduct, subjecting him to an Office of Special Investigations investigation, during which Vinitskaya falsely accused plaintiff of being a voodoo priest.
Plaintiff also asserts that Principal Vinitskaya assigned him to an unsanitary basement office upon his return to Tilden Educational Campus from a temporary administrative office assignment. Plaintiff asserts that Principal Vinitskaya did this maliciously in disregard of his seniority even though there were other available offices. Reportedly, both plaintiff and his union submitted administrative complaints to no avail. Ultimately, Principal Vinitskaya demoted plaintiff to the position of temporary substitute, assigned on a weekly basis to different schools.
Crediting plaintiff’s allegations for the purpose of this pre-answer, pre-discovery motion to dismiss the complaint …, we find that the complaint states a causes of action for discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment in violation of the New York State and New York City Human Rights laws. These allegations are sufficient to give defendant DOE “fair notice” of the nature of plaintiff’s claims and their grounds … . Petit v Department of Educ. of the City of N.Y., 2019 NY Slip Op 07990, First Dept 11-7-19