Employees Working in Other States Can Sue Under New York’s Anti-Discrimination Laws

If you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination or harassment, you might be able to sue your employer for under New York law even if you never worked in New York. At least according to one New York appellate court, employees can bring discrimination claims under New York’s anti-discrimination law if they are residents of New York or if the company made its discriminatory decision in New York, even if their jobs were out of state. For example, a New York State resident who works in New Jersey or Connecticut can sue his or her employer for discrimination under New York law.

Among other things, the New York Human Rights Law (NYHRL) prohibits employment discrimination and harassment based on an individual’s age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, gender, genetic characteristics, or marital status. The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) prohibits discrimination and harassment based on virtually all of those categories, as well as discrimination based on gender identity, partnership status, alienage/citizenship status, and status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking or sex offense. Both laws prohibit companies from retaliating against employees who complain about legally prohibited discrimination or harassment.

The NYHRL specifically states that it applies to acts committed outside of New York State if the employee is a resident of New York. Thus, New York residents can sue companies for violating the NYHRL even if they worked in another state.

In addition, under certain circumstances, even non-residents who worked outside of New York can sue their employers under the NYHRL. Likewise, in some situations employees who work outside of New York City can sue their employer’s under the NYCHRL. Specifically, on May 7, 2009, in Hoffman v. Parade Publications, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court ruled that out-of-state residents can sue their employers under the NYHRL or the NHCHRL if the company made the discriminatory decision in New York State or New York City, respectively.

Hoffman involves an employee, Howard Hoffman, who worked for Parade Publications from 1992 until Parade fired him on January 1, 2008. Mr. Hoffman worked for Parade based out of its Atlanta, Georgia office. When Parade fired Mr. Hoffman, he was 62 years old.

On October 2, 2007, while in Atlanta, Mr. Hoffman received a telephone call from Parade’s president and publisher in New York, who told him Parade was closing its Atlanta office, and firing him and his assistant for economic reasons. Mr. Hoffman sued under the NYHRL and the NYCHRL, claiming he was an exceptional employee, the oldest employee in Parade’s newspaper relations group, and that Parade actually fired him because of his age. He also claimed that Parade reassigned his job duties to another employee who was “considerably younger” than him.

The court held that although the NYCHRL is “limited to acts occurring within the boundaries of New York,” if the discriminatory employment decision was made in New York, then the discrimination “occurred” in New York. The court further explained that it would be “contrary to the purpose of both the NYHRL and the NYCHRL to leave it to other states to address acts of discrimination that occurred in New York.” Accordingly, it allowed Mr. Hoffman’s case to proceed in New York, under New York State and New York City law, because he alleged that Parade made the discriminatory decision to fire him because of his age in New York City. Thus, an employee who has never set foot in New York can potentially sue a company under New York law if the company made an adverse discriminatory decision about the employee in New York.