Certain court decisions had afforded employees with no connection with New York State or New York City the right to pursue claims under the New York State Human Rights Law (the “State Human Rights Law”) and/or the New York City Human Rights Law (together with the State Human Rights Law, the “State and City Human Rights Laws”) on the basis that the alleged discriminatory decision was made within New York State and/or New York City. In Hoffman v. Parade Publications, 15 N.Y.3d 285, 907 N.Y.S.2d 145 (2010), the New York Court of Appeals overruled these decisions and limited the class of potential plaintiffs under the State and City Human Rights Laws.

In Hoffman, the plaintiff was informed that the Atlanta, Georgia office in which he worked would be closed by year’s end and that his employment was being terminated. The employee was informed of this via telephone by the president and publisher of the employer who was based in the employer’s New York City headquarters. The employee thereafter commenced an age discrimination action, asserting that his termination violated the State and City Human Rights Laws.

The plaintiff was a resident of Georgia who did not service any accounts in New York. The employee claimed that he attended quarterly meetings of the employer in New York City, his group was managed from, and all corporate contracts were negotiated through, the employer’s New York City office and that the defendants’ decision to terminate him was made and executed in New York City.

The Court of Appeals held that a “nonresident of the city and state must plead and prove that the alleged discriminatory conduct had an impact within those respective boundaries.” Because the employee was not a resident of, or employed in, New York City or New York State and did not otherwise state a claim that the alleged discriminatory conduct had any impact in either of those locations, the Court of Appeals ruled that the employee’s age discrimination claims under the State and City Human Rights Law were properly dismissed by the trial court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

In establishing this rule, the Court of Appeals relied on the text of each of the State and City Human Rights Laws and deemed the “impact requirement” as practical and simple to apply:

The Appellate Division’s rule that a plaintiff need only plead and prove that the employer’s decision to terminate was made in the city is impractical, would lead to inconsistent and arbitrary results, and expands [City Human Rights Law] protections to nonresidents who have, at most, tangential contacts with the city . . . . In contrast, the impact requirement is relatively simple for courts to apply and litigants to follow, leads to predictable results, and confines the protections of the [City Human Rights Law] to those who are meant to be protected — those who work in the city.

Unsurprisingly, the Court of Appeals ruled that nonresidents who worked in New York State and/or New York City could invoke the protection of the applicable statutes.

New York-based employers with operations outside of New York State and/or New York City are the major beneficiaries of the Hoffman decision. Generally, nonresident employees who work outside of these territorial boundaries will be unable to invoke the protections of the State and City Human Rights Laws. When confronted with claims by such non-residents, employers should quickly attack the sufficiency of these complaints.

Because the employee was not a resident of, or employed in, New York City or New York State and did not otherwise state a claim that the alleged discriminatory conduct had any impact in either of those locations, the Court of Appeals ruled that the employee’s age discrimination claims under the State and City Human Rights Law were properly dismissed by the trial court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.