Friday, January 14, 2022

Jewelry Prohibition Not Discriminatory

The dismissal of a complaint filed against a daycare center has been affirmed by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department

The complaint alleges that defendant Bright Minds Center refused to allow plaintiff's son to wear a Star of David necklace to daycare in violation of New York State Human Rights Law and article 47 of the New York City Health Code. The complaint asserts causes of action for breach of contract, religious persecution, child assault and endangerment, limiting access to his child, and improper handling of personal information.

As a threshold matter, plaintiff failed to demonstrate the existence of an injury upon which relief could be granted (see Matter of World Trade Ctr. Lower Manhattan Disaster Site Litig., 30 NY3d 377, 384 [2017]). At the time that he commenced this action, his children no longer attended the daycare center. Moreover, while plaintiff claims that defendants' actions caused him emotional harm, he provided no evidence of treatment for emotional distress or of monetary loss.

Even if plaintiff had standing to bring this action, it would have to be dismissed. The religious persecution claim is predicated on defendants' blanket policy prohibiting children ages two to five from wearing jewelry. Defendants provided a nondiscriminatory reason for the policy, i.e., that it is dangerous for young children at daycare to wear jewelry because it can be a choking hazard, both to themselves and to other children at the center. Indeed, plaintiff previously was reminded of the policy after his daughter, while at daycare, was found with a nonreligious necklace in her mouth. Plaintiff failed to submit evidence that his son's religion played any role in defendants' decision to remove his necklace (see Bennett v Health Mgt. Sys., Inc., 92 AD3d 29, 39 [1st Dept 2011], lv denied 18 NY3d 811 [2012]). To the contrary, defendants informed plaintiff that his son was free to express his faith in other ways, such as the wearing of religious garb.

(Mike Frisch)

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