An employment discrimination suit against Tidal, the artist-owned streaming music service led by rapper Jay-Z, survived a motion to dismiss, albeit substantially whittled down by U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the Southern District of New York.
Lisette Paulson sued Tidal, Jay-Z’s entertainment company Roc Nation, and a number of individual Tidal managers in 2016, claiming seven federal and state sex and pregnancy violations after being fired the previous year. Paulson claimed her sudden departure came the day after speaking with Tidal’s COO about the need for private space for the new mother to express breast milk.
In her order Monday, Swain allowed the most substantial allegations against Tidal to proceed. Paulson brought Title VII complaints against the defendants over being fired on the basis of her sex and attendant “medical conditions” related to her recent pregnancy.
Tidal argued that Paulson’s need to express breast milk did not make her part of a protected class. Swain disagreed, pointing to prior precedent that confirmed that lactation is a pregnancy-related medical condition. As Paulson’s recent promotion to full time showed she was qualified in her position, being fired is an adverse condition, and the “close temporal relationship” between the assertions in her suit gives “rise to an inference of discrimination,” allowing her Title VII complaint to go forward.
As Paulson’s claims against Tidal under New York State Human Rights Law are “analytically identical” to those asserted under Title VII, Swain denied the motion to dismiss that claim as well.
While the federal and state discrimination claims against the music streaming service survived, Swain substantially trimmed a number of other claims. As Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s entertainment company, wasn’t shown to have a relationship to Paulson other than the distant one between Roc Nation and two of the individual defendants, Swain dismissed the Title VII and state claims against the company. She also dismissed the Title VII claims against individual defendants as the federal law doesn’t provide for individual liability.
Swain also dismissed a number of other causes of action against Tidal, including over emotional distress, breach of oral contract, and a claim based on a breast-feeding provision under the New York Civil Rights Law. As the statute referred only to breast feeding, not expressing milk, Swain found the NYCRL did not provide cover for such a claim.
Despite the narrowing of her claim, Paulson’s attorney, Douglas / Hicks Law name attorney Jamon Hicks said he and his client were “thrilled” with Swain’s ruling.
“We believe that what happened to Mrs. Paulson was a travesty,” he said in an emailed statement. “We intend to aggressively move forward with litigating this matter against Tidal. Wrong is wrong!!!”
Tidal’s legal team was represented by Rivkin Radler partner Scott Green. He did not respond to a request for comment. A similar request for comment from a Tidal spokesman was also not answered.