August 10, 2020 — Hughes Hubbard won a significant victory for two officials of the New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA) when a New York state court dismissed them from a suit brought by a former employee for alleged pregnancy discrimination.

On July 24, New York Supreme Court Justice Bruce Balter granted HHR's motion to dismiss the individual defendants, ruling that plaintiff Heidi Leibowitz failed to properly serve them. The case will now proceed only against NYCLA.

Leibowitz worked for the bar association as a fee dispute program administrator from 2005 until August 2016. According to her suit, during her high-risk pregnancy in 2013, Leibowitz was forced to do physically demanding work, such as retrieving boxes from a basement, a task she didn't have to perform previously. 

When Leibowitz returned from leave, she said, she learned that her assistant had been fired and she was told she wouldn't get a new one. Her suit also claimed that, even though she asked for a private place to pump breast milk, NYCLA refused to provide one and made her do it in the bathroom. 

She became pregnant again in 2015, and the alleged harassment resumed when her bosses found out, the suit said. She allegedly was told to stop taking so many bathroom breaks despite repeatedly needing to throw up during that time. While she was out on leave, NYCLA made her position a part-time job and eventually fired her, her suit said. 

In August 2019, Leibowitz sued NYCLA, as well as her supervisor, Lois Davis, the director of pro bono programs who retired in May 2018; and Sophia Gianacoplos, executive director of NYCLA. Her suit asserted that their actions violated both state and New York City anti-discrimination law.

On Dec. 16, 2019, HHR moved to dismiss Davis and Gianacoplos from the case, arguing that Leibowitz failed to properly serve the individual defendants with the complaint. HHR's answer on behalf of NYCLA denied Leibowitz's allegations, asserting that Leibowitz repeatedly refused to tell NYCLA when she would return to work, and that during her leave, NYCLA discovered that she had not attended to 100 cases in the fee dispute program she administered. 

After oral argument, the court ruled that the individual defendants established their entitlement to the relief requested as a matter of law.

Ned Bassen leads the HHR team, which also includes Miles Orton, Sophie Moskop and Kimberly Jones.