New York City continues to be a "stronghold" for employees faced with discrimination, especially where federal discrimination and retaliation laws fall short. The recent case of Albunio v. City of New York, provides a potent example of New York's recent record of civil rights advances and demonstrates the breadth of its anti-discrimination law. The case applies the retaliation provision of the New York City Human Rights Law to co-employees who stand up for others in their workplace who face employer discrimination.
In that case, Lori Albunio was the New York City Police Department's Youth Services commanding officer. Her problems began when she recommended another officer for an open position with the D.A.R.E. program. She felt confident that the other officer was best suited for the position. But her superior officer, was not happy with the recommendation. During his interview of the applicant, Albunio's supervisor questioned the male applicant's relationship with another male officer and asked about his marital status. The supervising officer later told Albunio he would not "want the applicant around children." Soon after that, Albunio learned she was on the "chopping block" for using "poor judgment when requesting personnel." She continued to claim that the person she recommended was best for the job and that she would offer it to him again if given the chance. Soon after that, she was reassigned to another position.
Applying the Human Rights Law, the Court decided that despite Albunio's failure to file a formal complaint or make an outright accusation of discrimination, her statements sufficiently opposed discrimination against her recommended applicant, based on his perceived sexual orientation. On the heels of the Marriage Equality Act in New York, the Albunio case shows that courts in that state will take a strong stand on the civil rights of its employees. New York City employees may take comfort knowing that they can speak up against discrimination and have the law on their side. On the other hand, employees should closely study the new marriage act and this case, to avoid unnecessary lawsuits.