Court Dismisses Sexual Harassment Lawsuit, Citing NYC Human Rights Law’s Limited Geographic Reach

The New York City Human Rights Law is a broad statute that can be of enormous benefit to a plaintiff alleging, for example, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. That is, of course, when it applies.

As illustrated by Lambui v. Collins, No. 14-CV-6457 JS AYS, 2015 WL 5821589 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2015), the NYCHRL’s reach is geographically limited. Judge Seybert explained:

To state a claim under the NYCHRL, “a plaintiff must allege that he was discriminated against by the defendant within New York City.” Salvatore v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, No. 98–CV–2450, 1999 WL 796172, at *16 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 1999). Courts have consistently held that the plaintiff must “plead and prove that the alleged discriminatory conduct had an impact in New York.” See Hoffman v. Parade Publ’ns, 15 N.Y.3d 285, 291, 933 N.E.2d 744, 747, 907 N.Y.S.2d 145, 148 (2010). To determine where the alleged discriminatory conduct occurred, “courts have looked to the location of the impact of the offensive conduct.” Salvatore, 1999 WL 796172, at *16; see also Regan v. Benchmark Co. LLC, No. 11–CV–4511, 2012 WL 692056, at *13–14 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 1, 2012) (finding that defendants’ discriminatory conduct had an impact in New York City because all aspects of plaintiff’s employment connected her to the company’s New York City office, even after she was transferred to an office outside the city). Furthermore, “it is the site of impact, not the place of origination, that determines where discriminatory acts occur.” Int’l Healthcare Exch., Inc. v. Global Healthcare Exch., LLC, 470 F.Supp.2d 345, 362 (S.D.N.Y.2007).

Where the discriminatory conduct occurs outside the geographical bounds of New York City, courts have found that the impact requirement is satisfied if the plaintiff alleges that the conduct has affected the terms and conditions of plaintiff’s employment within the city. See, e.g., Regan, 2012 WL 692056, at *13–14; Chin v. CH2M Hill Companies, Ltd., No. 12–CV–4010, 2012 WL 4473293, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 2012) (finding that defendants “failed to show that there is no possibility that there was an impact in New York,” since the impact of defendants’ alleged conduct may have been felt in New York City); Int’l Healthcare Exch., 470 F.Supp.2d at 362–63 (at summary judgment stage, finding that defendants’ alleged retaliatory termination, which occurred during a business trip in Paris, affected plaintiff’s employment in New York City, and therefore could form the basis of an NYCHRL cause of action).

Applying the law, the court dismissed plaintiff’s case:

Plaintiff’s only touchstone to New York City are her meetings with Weir, at Weir’s Manhattan office, which occurred after Plaintiff had lodged her complaints against [alleged sexual harasser] Collins. These meetings led to Plaintiff’s ultimate termination. While New York City may be the location of Plaintiff’s termination, it is of no consequence here because, it is the impact of the adverse action, and not the location where acts leading to the discrimination occur that gives rise to a claim under the NYCHRL. … Here, Plaintiff was employed by the UBSFS Melville, Long Island branch, and her injuries, including her termination, all arose out of her employment at the Melville location. Hoffman makes clear that the dispositive factor in an impact analysis is the locus of where the discrimination was felt by the plaintiff. Therefore, although the decision to terminate Plaintiff was physically made within New York City, its impact was felt on Long Island. Thus, Plaintiff has no basis to invoke the protections of the NYCHRL. (Emphasis added.)

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