You may have heard about a case filed by yoga instructor and massage therapist Dilek Edwards. In 2013, she sued her former employers Charles Nicolai and Stephanie Edwards, owners of the Wall Street Chiropractic and Wellness Center. Edwards claimed that Nicolai and Edwards terminated her employment for reasons that violated New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). She alleged that they fired her “for being too cute” and that doing so was gender or sex discrimination.
In Edwards’ complaint, she set forth the following allegations:
The trial court dismissed the case on May 11, 2016. Judge Shlomo Hagler in granting the Defendants’ motion, stated that Edwards produced no factual evidence that she got fired for any reason other than spousal jealousy. The judge said that there was no New York court precedent indicating that jealousy alone was sufficient to sustain a gender discrimination claim.
Additionally, the judge said that Edwards did not include enough information to demonstrate that being fired because of cuteness was “appearance-based discrimination” which might violate NYCHRL and NYSHRL. Judge Hagler explained that appearance-based discrimination historically involves differential treatment of men and women. With no indication that Nicolai terminated her for being a woman or treated her differently than a man, the judge could not allow the case to proceed.
A recent decision by the appeals court has given the lawsuit new life and has revived the possibility that if you get fired for being “too cute,” you may have a viable sex discrimination claim in New York.
The National Law Review reported; “that decision was overturned on appeal, with the court holding that “adverse employment actions motivated by sexual attraction are gender-based, and therefore, constitute unlawful gender discrimination.”
The court explained that one could reasonably infer that each defendant may have based their decision or desire to fire Edwards on sexual attraction. For Nicolai, it may have been to reassure his wife that there would be no sexual attraction. For Adams, it may have been to end what she believed to be sexual attraction between her husband and their employee. It logically follows that if employment decisions based on sexual attraction violate gender discrimination and sex discrimination laws, Edwards case should proceed.
According to the New York Post, the appeals panel stated that “was fired for no reason other than Adams’ belief that Nicolai was sexually attracted to her,” and that “This states a cause of action for gender discrimination under New York State Human Rights Law,”
Judge David Friedman, Judges Karla Moskowitz, Judith Gische, and Marcy Kahn participated in making this decision.
Not all cases require as much analysis as Edwards v. Nicolai and many lawsuits settle before even getting to the trial stage. Lawsuits like this one, however, provide a good opportunity to remind people of the basics of sex discrimination in the workplace.
Gender discrimination occurs when an employer makes a decision based on sex or gender. Some examples of sex discrimination may include:
Do any of these situations sound familiar? If so, you may be the victim of gender discrimination which violates NYSHRL and NYCHRL. You may also have a claim of retaliation which the law also prohibits.
At Leeds Brown Law, P.C. our attorneys have spent decades representing employees who have experienced sexual harassment at work. We have achieved excellent results. Thousands of New Yorkers have benefitted from our representation in sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuits. We welcome the opportunity to hear the details of your case.
You can reach us 24/7 at 1-800-585-4658. Call Leeds Brown today and find out how you can recover monetary compensation and other relief when your employer violates your workplace rights.