Argued: September 9, 2016
Submission: November 20, 2017
Certified: November 1, 2016
from a decision of the district court denying plaintiff's
request for a jury instruction concerning punitive damages
for pregnancy discrimination claims arising under the New
York City Human Rights Law. Having certified to the New York
Court of Appeals the question of the appropriate standard for
determining whether a defendant may be liable for damages
under the New York City Human Rights Law, we now conclude
that the district court erred in applying the test for
whether punitive damages are available under substantive
federal law. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court
is VACATED, and we REMAND for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion.
Stephen Bergstein, Bergstein & Ullrich, LLP, Chester, NY
(Anne Donnelly Bush, Law Offices of Anne Donnelly Bush,
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, on the brief), for
H. Forman, Forest Hills, NY, for Defendant-Appellant.
Friedman, Friedman & Houlding, LLP, Mamaroneck, NY, for
Amicus Curiae National Employment Lawyers Association/New
Before: Katzmann, Chief Judge, Sack and Hall, Circuit Judges.
Veronika Chauca appeals from a judgment of the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of New York
(Vitaliano, J.) following a jury verdict in her
favor. We assume familiarity with our earlier opinion in this
matter, as amended on November 8, 2016. Chauca v.
Abraham, 841 F.3d 86 (2d Cir. 2016).
Chauca's claims were submitted to the jury, the district
court denied Chauca's request to provide a jury
instruction concerning the availability of punitive damages
under the New York City Human Rights Law
("NYCHRL"). It declined to do so because there was
"no showing of malice, reckless indifference [or] that
there was an intent to violate the law, " App. 411, the
standard for an award of punitive damages under the
corresponding provisions of federal law under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act, see Kolstad v. Am. Dental
Ass'n, 527 U.S. 526, 529-30 (1999) ("Punitive
damages are limited . . . to cases in which the employer has
engaged in intentional discrimination and has done so
'with malice or with reckless indifference to the
federally protected rights of an aggrieved
individual.'" (quoting 42 U.S.C. §
prior opinion, we concluded that New York case law does not
clearly resolve the issue raised by this case, and we thus
certified the following question to the New York Court of
Appeals: "What is the standard for finding a defendant
liable for punitive damages under the New York City Human
Rights Law, N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-502?"
Chauca, 841 F.3d at 95. The Court of Appeals
recently resolved the certified question by holding that
"the standard for determining damages under the NYCHRL
is whether the wrongdoer has engaged in discrimination with
willful or wanton negligence, or recklessness, or a
'conscious disregard of the rights of others or conduct
so reckless as to amount to such disregard.'"
Chauca v. Abraham, 89 N.E.3d 475, 481 (N.Y. 2017)
(quoting Home Ins. Co. v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 550
N.E.2d 930, 934 (N.Y. 1990)).
doing so, it expressly rejected the application of the
federal standard for punitive damages, explaining that the
NYCHRL "requires neither a showing of malice nor
awareness of the violation of a protected right" because
"implementing a lower degree of culpability and
eschewing the knowledge requirement . . . adheres to the [New
York] City Council's liberal construction mandate"
that "'[t]he provisions of [the NYCHRL] shall be
construed liberally . . . regardless of whether federal or
New York state civil and human rights laws . . . have been so
construed.'" Id. at 480 (alterations in
original, quoting N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-130(a)). We
thus hold that the district court did not apply the proper
standard in declining to submit the ...