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Discrimination Lawsuit By Orthodox Jewish Professors Against CUNY Can Go Forward, NY Court Rules

Discrimination Lawsuit By Orthodox Jewish Professors Against CUNY Can Go Forward, NY Court Rules

NY Court: “The utilization of an individual’s religious beliefs and practices to limit their inclusion is the very definition of religious discrimination.”

The City University of New York (CUNY) suffered a blow last week when New York Supreme Court Judge Gina Abadi allowed a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by five Orthodox Jewish professors to go forward. The court’s ruling is an important win in the battle against antisemitism at the university. The school, once known for welcoming working-class Jewish students when other schools excluded them, is now known as a hotbed of Jew-hatred.

We have written previously about the professors’ claims here.

The plaintiffs all teach at at Kingsborough Community College (Kingsborough), which is part of CUNY.  Their complaint, filed in February 2021, alleges “pervasive, anti-religious discrimination” by the school and, in particular, by leaders of the “New Caucus,” a political party of the labor union for CUNY faculty. They say that members of the New Caucus collaborated against them with another faculty group, the “Progressive Faculty Caucus,” (PFC) formed several years ago.

From the court’s filing:

Plaintiffs assert, among numerous alleged acts of discriminatory conduct, that the PFC denied entry to every observant Jewish applicant, including Lax [one of the plaintiffs]; that the PFC and the New Caucus members lobbied against Lax and other observant Jewish candidates running in campus elections; that the PFC members called for the removal of observant Jewish faculty members, including Lax; that the PFC organized an anti-discrimination event for a Friday night (the Friday Night Event), with the purpose of excluding Sabbath-observant Jewish members, including Lax; that the Union leaders applied pressure to Kingsborough’s chief diversity officer, Victoria Ajibade (Ajibade), to suppress the investigation of the Friday Night Event; that Lax was “badgered” at a Union event by five PFC members, including two Union officials; that on, one student wrote that Gartner, a Kingsborough professor, had told the student “[you] should have gone to a Jewish School” when the student requested to take off two days in order to observe Jewish holidays; that the PFC and the New Caucus members wrote in a communist newspaper regarding their “struggle” against a “network of Zionists” among the faculty at Kingsborough,” and made similar comments in a publicly distributed campus survey; that an internal PFC email mentioned the need to “bring violence to the Zionists on campus”; that anti-Semitic flyers were distributed on the Kingsborough campus; that a portrait of Goldstein’s [one of the plaintiff’s] father was defaced; that nails were found in Lax and Goldstein’s car tires; and that the PFC members called for plaintiffs’ removal from their jobs at Kingsborough.

In its motion to dismiss the professors’ claims, CUNY argued that it can’t be held responsible for the alleged discriminatory conduct by others—here, the faculty groups.

The court disagreed.  Under the law, CUNY as an employer could be liable for an employee’s discriminatory act if it “became a party to it by encouraging, condoning, or approving it.’ ”

“The utilization of an individual’s religious beliefs and practices to limit their inclusion,” the court said, “is the very definition of religious discrimination.”  It found that the Orthodox Jewish professors adequately alleged “they were discriminated against because of their religion and that CUNY, in response to the alleged discriminatory conduct, failed to take corrective action, thereby creating a hostile working environment.”

Judge Abadi also rejected CUNY’s argument that the professors were complaining about “petty slights and trivial inconveniences” as grounds for dismissal. Nor had they failed to make out a claim for unlawful retaliation, the court held. With some limited exceptions, the court found that the plaintiffs had overwhelmingly stated their claims at this early stage of the litigation, and it could now go forward.

The court’s ruling last week coincided with yet another major controversy over antisemitism at the university: the hiring of Marc Lamont Hill, the professor fired by CNN for his anti-Israel speech. CUNY’s appointment of Hill drew outrage from the Jewish community that overshadowed the news of the judge’s decision—a decision that, for now at least, stands as a victory in the battle against antisemitism at CUNY.


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There is an interesting interface between DEI and free speech. There is no “free speech” exception for hate speech. Any CUNY professor is free to say very hateful things without government censorship (and CUNY’s actions are state actions.)

However, there are laws against creating a hostile work environment. So, although people are free to say hateful things, the courts can hold them accountable if what they say creates a hostile work environment. To me, this case is properly decided.

People who argue that DEI must be removed from higher education completely in order to enhance free speech, should read this court case.

    henrybowman in reply to lawgrad. | August 29, 2023 at 7:03 pm

    Hostile work environment law was a thing decades before DEI.
    You sure are doing a lot of apologizing for wokeness today.

What are the prospects for punitive damages against CUNY like in the Oberlin case? CUNY retained a law firm to advise on its possible liability, and then when the law firm told CUNY there was, indeed, a problem, CUNY hid the report and it only came to light through a FOIL request by the plaintiffs. Unfortunately, if punitives could be awarded, it would be the taxpayers who would pay them (unlike Oberlin).

The vile Dhimmi-crats are the biggest, most brazen and most unabashed purveyors of Jew-hate in the U.S., outside of the Muslim community.

Steven Brizel | August 31, 2023 at 9:51 am

This decision is excellent -Jackson Lewis for decades was a management oriented labor law firm-it is now obviously woke in its white washing of anti Semitism

Steven Brizel | August 31, 2023 at 10:33 am

You can’t separate the defense of this case by CUNY especially with a so called investigative report from a law firm that was pro management but now is quite woke from the hiring of an anti Semite by CUNY