NYC Human Rights Law’s Geographic Limitations Explained and Applied

In Mejia v. White Plains Self Storage Corp., 2020 WL 247995 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 16, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s employment discrimination claim asserted under the New York City Human Rights Law.

The court based its decision as to that claim on the NYCHRL’s limited geographic applicability.

The court summarized the law as follows:

New York law dictates that the NYCHRL protects only a limited class of people—New York City (the “City”) residents and “those who work in the [C]ity,” which is defined as “the five boroughs” in the City’s Administrative Code. Hoffman v. Parade Publ’ns, 933 N.E.2d 744, 747 (N.Y. 2010) (holding that, for the NYCHRL to apply to a particular case, nonresidents must show that “the alleged discriminatory conduct had an impact within” the boundary of New York City). The five boroughs refer to Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, and, notably, do not include the city of White Plains. See N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 2-201. Defendant correctly notes that Plaintiff alleges only that he worked in White Plains and not that he worked in the City. (See Compl. 2, 3 (listing the address of Plaintiff’s workplace).) However, the text of the Hoffman holding, which limited the territorial jurisdiction of the NYCHRL, applied only to non-residents. See Hoffman, 933 N.E.2d at 747 (“[W]e conclude that a nonresident must plead and prove that the alleged discriminatory conduct had an impact in New York.”). In contrast, here, Plaintiff is a resident of the Bronx, one of the five boroughs of the City, which, at first glance, adds a wrinkle to the analysis set forth in Hoffman. (See Compl. 2 (listing Plaintiff’s home address).)

*4 However, other courts in the Second Circuit have noted that the same rationale—limiting the scope of the NYCHRL to cases where the discriminatory conduct had its impact within the City—is “equally applicable to claims brought by [City] residents” because to hold otherwise would create the same “inconsistent and arbitrary results” that the Hoffman court was trying to avoid, i.e., the possibility of holding an employer liable under the NYCHRL “based solely on its employees[’] chosen residence.” Robles v. Cox & Co., 841 F. Supp. 2d 615, 624 (E.D.N.Y. 2012); see also Wahlstrom v. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co., 89 F. Supp. 2d 506, 527–28 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (dismissing a discrimination claim under the NYCHRL without reference to the plaintiff’s residence because “the alleged incidents took place in White Plains, New York, well outside the borders of New York City”); Hardwick v. Auriemma, 983 N.Y.S.2d 509, 511–12 (App. Div. 2014) (“The [NYCHRL] do[es] not apply to acts of discrimination against [City] residents committed outside [its] boundaries by foreign defendants. In analyzing where the discrimination occurred, courts look to the location of the impact of the offensive conduct.” (citations and quotation marks omitted)); Ortiz v. Haier Am. Trading, LLC, 2011 N.Y. Slip Op. 31414 (Sup. Ct. 2011) (noting that it is the location of the “impact of the discriminatory conduct or decision,” not the plaintiff’s residence, nor the defendant’s principal place of business, that determines whether the NYCHRL applies).

Applying the law, the court dismissed plaintiff’s discrimination claim, noting that plaintiff “has not alleged any facts indicating that the impact of the alleged discrimination occurred within the bounds of the City, and has instead alleged events that took place only at his workplace in White Plains.”

 

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