A Long-Running Case from Federal Court Has Just Yielded a Major Win for Workers Harmed by Discrimination

New York's highest has just issued an important new decision that is both a boon to certain workers harmed by discrimination or harassment, and a reminder of the substantial breadth of the coverage of the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law. Following this new ruling, you can potentially seek justice under those laws for harmful discrimination whether you were a New York resident, a New York worker, or someone who sought a new position or promotion that would have relocated your work to New York. Establishing that you've met all the factual and legal requirements necessary to receive compensation under these laws can be complex and challenging, so don't try to go it alone. Instead, be sure you've retained skillful counsel from an experienced New York employment discrimination lawyer.

The case involved two female employees of a major news media organization. One was a woman of African ancestry who worked as a producer in New York City. The other was a woman of South Asian ancestry who worked as a reporter in Washington, D.C., and Dubai. The latter had applied for multiple jobs with the employer in New York City but was never accepted into any of those positions.

The producer and the reporter sued the employer alleging multiple claims, including race and gender discrimination in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law.

The federal district court tossed the reporter's NYSHRL and NYCHRL claims, reasoning that, even though she alleged discrimination in a hiring process that involved New York City positions, she did not "feel the impact" of that discrimination in New York, therefore, she could not advance NYSHRL and NYCHRL claims.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling and asked New York's highest court to weigh in. Specifically, the federal courts tasked the New York Court of Appeals with deciding whether workers must work or live in New York to bring NYSHRL/NYCHRL claims or if workers "who would work in New York City or State absent discrimination" also could avail themselves of those laws.

The Significance of 'Liberally Construed' Laws

Earlier this week, the New York Court of Appeals answered the question, delivering a ruling that substantially benefits workers. The high court began by reiterating that both the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL must be "liberally construed," which means that gray areas should be resolved in favor of enforcing the laws "in order to maximize deterrence of discriminatory conduct."

The "impact" test the federal district court relied upon dated back to a 2010 New York Court of Appeals ruling in the case of a Georgia resident who worked in Atlanta for a company headquartered in New York City and who allegedly endured age discrimination.

As the high court noted in its new ruling, that 2010 decision said that nonresidents could bring NYSHRL or NYCHRL claims if they proved that they either (1) worked in New York, or (2) that the discrimination they encountered "had some impact on the plaintiff within the respective New York geographic boundaries."

Unlike the Georgia resident, who did not live or work in New York and never sought to do so, the reporter actively sought New York employment and, according to her lawsuit, failed to land her desired New York job due to illegal discrimination. In that context, the worker from Georgia never sought to be a New York inhabitant but the reporter (and other workers in situations similar to hers) lost "the chance to work, and perhaps live, within" New York because they suffered discrimination. The court determined that, in that circumstance, the impact the discrimination inflicted on the worker was a New York impact.

Allowing These Lawsuits Benefits the State and City as a Whole

The high court also agreed with the governments of New York State and New York City, who filed briefs supporting the reporter's position. Those entities argued that illegal discrimination harms the state/city as a whole, depriving them "of economic and civic contributions from individuals discriminatorily denied the opportunity to work in New York, along with the more diverse workforces and communities that the individuals would advance." Additionally, the city has an administrative code section that says that "prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, and discrimination, [and] bias-related violence or harassment... threaten the rights and proper privileges of [the city's] inhabitants and menace the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state." Interpreting the "impact" requirement broadly to allow more workers to seek justice under the NYSHRL or the NYCHRL "has the beneficial effect of protecting New York institutions and the general welfare of the state and city" as the laws intend, according to the high court.

The law of employment discrimination continues to evolve. To ensure that your case is as strong as it can be, you need legal representation that is fully up-to-date on all the nuances, technicalities, and new developments in the law. The knowledgeable New York gender discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates offer our clients the powerful, effective, and experience-driven advice and advocacy they need to hold wrongdoers accountable for their harmful misconduct. Contact us online or at (833) 529-3476 to set up a free and confidential consultation today.

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