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Retaliation charges reinstated


A federal appeals court has upheld dismissal of sex and race discrimination claims filed by a former New York City employee but reinstated her retaliation claims.

Robin Collymore, a black former project manager for the Emergency Communications Transformation Program In New York City’s Department of Information and Telecommunications between August 2015 and June 2016, claimed that over those nearly 11 months she was the victim of sex and race discrimination.

She said she was also the victim of retaliation for first reporting the discrimination against her, and later reporting that her supervisor had violated the agency’s code of conduct when he instructed her and other employees to hide documents during an ongoing investigation by the Department of Investigation, according to Thursday’s ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in Robin Collymore v. City of New York et al.

She filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York, which dismissed all the charges.  A three-judge appeals court panel unanimously upheld dismissal of the sex and race charges but reinstated the retaliation charges.

The panel held that Ms. Collymore had failed to allege that an indirect supervisor’s unwanted touching was because of her sex, and allegations her supervisors yelled at her and scrutinized her work more closely than white employees’ work are insufficient to establish a race discrimination claim.

However, she has established a retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, said the ruling. Her allegation that after she complained about the supervisor’s sexual harassment her supervisors forced her to work through her lunch hour, despite knowing she needed to maintain a specific lunch hour to prevent migraines, “plausibly states a claim for retaliation,” said the ruling.

Her supervisors forced Ms. Collymore “to choose between reporting discrimination and maintaining her health. It is therefore plausible that a reasonable worker in Collymore’s position would decline to report discrimination in order to conserve their health,” said the panel, in reinstating her retaliation charges, and remanding the case for further proceedings.

Ms. Collymore’s attorney Special Hagan, of Low Offices of Special Hagan in Saint Albans, New York, said, “It was a strong retaliation complaint.”

Ms. Hagan said Ms. Collymore filed seven complaints during the 10 months she held the position, and experienced “any number of retaliatory actions,” including supervisors speaking against her at her unemployment hearing.

She said she still believes the court was wrong in dismissing Ms. Collymore’s sex and race discrimination claims.

A New York City attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Retaliation charges accounted for the largest number of charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Commission in fiscal 2018 for the eighth consecutive year, representing more than half of the total charges filed, according to a report the agency issued Thursday.




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