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A recent legal decision increases the likelihood that successful plaintiffs will be able to recover punitive damages when asserting discrimination claims in New York City.
New York’s Court of Appeals has just clarified the legal standard applicable to punitive damages awards in NYC Human Rights Law (discrimination) cases, holding that the more plaintiff-friendly common law standard applies to such claims, rather than the more strenuous federal standard normally applicable to federal Title VII discrimination claims.
Under the common law standard, punitive damages are available where the defendant’s actions amount to willful or wanton negligence, or recklessness, or where there is a conscious disregard of others or conduct so reckless as to amount to such disregard.
Under the federal standard, punitive damages are available where there is intentional discrimination, with malice or with reckless indifference to the rights of an aggrieved individual.
This case, Chauca v Abraham, overturns precedent applying the Title VII standard to NYCHRL claims.
By Matthew L. Berman, Senior Associate