• New York High Court Limits Extra-Territorial Reach of New York City and State Human Rights Laws
  • July 20, 2010 | Authors: Clifford R. Atlas; Richard I. Greenberg; Alexander W. Leonard
  • Law Firm: Jackson Lewis LLP - New York Office
  • In a positive decision for New York employers, the New York State Court of Appeals, the State’s highest court, has greatly limited the ability of employees working out-of-state to assert claims under the New York City or State Human Rights Laws. Hoffman v. Parade Publications, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 5706 (July 1, 2010).

    Previously, both an intermediate New York appellate court and federal district courts, including the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, had ruled that an out-of-state employee could assert such a claim based solely on the fact that an alleged discriminatory decision relating to the employee was made in New York.

    Background

    The plaintiff in Hoffman worked as a managing director for Parade Magazine’s newspaper relations group.  He characterized the job as a “traveling salesman” position.  The position was based entirely out of Parade Magazine’s Atlanta, Georgia, office.  Other than some occasional travel to New York and reporting to management in New York, the plaintiff resided and worked entirely in Georgia.

    Parade decided to close its Atlanta office, effectively ending the plaintiff’s employment, and allegedly reassigned all of the plaintiff’s job responsibilities to a younger employee based in New York City.

    In order to take advantage of the generous damages and fee-shifting provisions available under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws, the plaintiff in his discrimination lawsuit argued that because the decision to close the Atlanta office was made entirely by Parade’s upper management at its New York City headquarters, the State and City Human Rights Laws should apply.  The Appellate Division of the state’s trial court in Manhattan agreed.  Parade appealed.

    High Court Decision

    The Court of Appeals disagreed with the intermediate tribunal.  It held that the statutory texts of both the New York State and City Human Rights Laws state plainly that the laws were intended to encompass only discrimination which “threaten[s] the rights and proper privileges of [the City/State’s] inhabitants.” 

    The Court of Appeals acknowledged that in some circumstances the State and City anti-discrimination laws might apply to employment outside of New York State or City.  However, this would occur only where the “impact” of the events and effects of discrimination were felt within New York.  Then, and only then, could an out-of-state plaintiff properly invoke the New York State and City Human Rights Laws, the Court found.  The Court concluded that none of the alleged discrimination the plaintiff had pled in his Complaint could be found to have impacted him in New York State or City, and dismissed his claims as a matter of law.

    Implications for Employers

    Employers whose operations are based in New York State and/or City can breathe (but not too deeply) a sigh of relief.  Claims under the New York State and/or City Human Rights law brought by out-of-state employees generally will not be actionable based solely on the decision makers’ presence in New York.  Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist employers in defending against these and other types of lawsuits brought under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.