New York State and City Human Rights Laws Can Protect Non-Resident Employees

April 26, 2010

By: Michael P. Collins

Another federal court has recently decided that the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) and New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) can protect employees who do not live or work in New York. In Rohn Padmore, Inc. v. LC Play Inc., the plaintiff, Ron Padmore, alleged discriminatory discharge based on sexual orientation. During the initial month of his employment, Padmore worked at defendant’s offices in New York City. Thereafter, he worked mainly from his home in Los Angeles, but returned to the employer’s New York City offices on three occasions. His employment was terminated by an e-mail generated from the employer’s New York City offices, which contained apparent evidence that the termination was based on sexual orientation.

The employer sought summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground, among others, that as a non-resident of New York, the protections of the NYSHRL and NYCHRL did not apply to Padmore. After a thorough review of the conflicting decisions that had previously considered the issue, the Court sided with the courts which have held that the two laws apply when a discriminatory act is committed in New York, even if the impact of the act is felt outside of New York. Because the employer’s offices were in New York City, the allegedly discriminatory termination decision was made in New York City and the e-mail evidencing discriminatory animus was sent from New York City, the Court found Padmore was protected by both the state and city laws.

The Padmore court’s interpretation of the geographic reach of the NYSHRL and NYCHRL is becoming the majority view, and is the view of New York’s Appellate Division, First Department. If Padmore is followed by other courts, potential plaintiffs across the country, even those who never set foot in New York, may be able to avail themselves of the generous protections of the NYSHRL and NYCHRL, so long as an arguably discriminatory decision was made in New York.