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Remind bosses: They may be personally liable for discrimination under N.Y. law

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Sometimes, it takes a strong argument to get supervisors to pay attention.

Want them to make absolutely sure no one is being harassed or discriminated against? Just remind bosses that turning a blind eye to workplace problems may cause them terrible legal and financial problems of their own—because New York law makes them personally liable for discrimination happening on their watch.

Specifically tell them that it’s illegal for “any person to aid, abet, incite, compel, or coerce the doing of any of the acts forbidden” in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Recent case: Gary Ritterband, a white male Jewish teacher, claimed his black supervisor favored black teachers and that the school principal allowed the discrimination to happen. Ritterband also alleged that he had been falsely accused of sexual misconduct with a student, and the school had refused to try to clear his name by investigating his claims of innocence.

Ritterband sued, alleging racial and religious discrimination. He also personally named the principal as a defendant. The principal said he wasn’t personally involved in any of the allegedly discriminatory activities.

The court ruled that the principal would remain a defendant in the lawsuit, reasoning that it was plausible that he knew or should have known what was going on at his school. (Ritterband v. Hempstead Union Free School, et al., No. 06-CV-6628, ED NY, 2008)

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