Court: Employee Terminated Because of Wife’s Religion Has Claim Under NY Human Rights Law

New York’s Human Rights Law prohibits discriminating against an employee because of the religion of his or her spouse, a New York appellate court ruled last Wednesday, January 14.

In this case an employee of the town of New Castle, New York, sued the county, alleging he was terminated because his wife is Jewish. According to the Appellate Division,  Second Division ruling, the alleged victim was a member of a “protected class” under the statute. Moreover, the court held, “discrimination against an individual based on his or her association with a member of a protected class also constitutes an infringement upon that individual’s First Amendment right to intimate association, which receives protection as a fundamental element of liberty.”

Such “associational” discrimination has long been prohibited under federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so this decision brings the New York law in line with federal precedent.

And there’s no reason this same reasoning couldn’t be applied to prohibit discrimination by a private sector employer against an employee because of the religion of that employee’s spouse.

The ruling is Chiara v. Town of New Castle, 477/05 (Appellate Division, Second Department, 2015). The Second Department is the appellate court for Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Westchester, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Orange County, Putnam County, Rockland County and Dutchess County.

 

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