New York State and New York City both provide legal protections for workers that meet–and often exceed–the provisions of federal civil rights law. In order to take advantage of state and city laws, you must demonstrate that the New York courts have “subject matter jurisdiction” over your claim. Among other things, this typically means you need to establish that you actually live or work in New York.
In a 2010 decision, Hoffman v. Parade Publications, the New York Court of Appeals held that nonresidents could not file a lawsuit under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL)–or its local counterpart, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL)–unless they could show the alleged discriminatory conduct had an “impact” within the state or city. It was, for instance, not enough to show that the decision to fire someone was made in New York. If a nonresident regularly worked in New York City, then he or she could establish subject matter jurisdiction under the NYCHRL.
Manhattan Judge Rejects Discrimination Case Against Retired Radio Host Don Imus
To help illustrate how these rules work in practice, consider this recent decision from Manhattan Supreme Court, Wolf v. Imus. The parties to this lawsuit are two well-known radio personalities, Don Imus and Warner Wolf. Imus hosted the popular “Imus in the Morning” show for nearly five decades before retiring earlier this year. For approximately 20 years of that run, Wolf served as a regular sports contributor.
Although the Imus program was broadcast from WABC in New York City, Wolf worked remotely from his home in Florida starting in 2015. Wolf alleged he directly worked for Imus under an employment contract, which paid him $195,000 annually. But in late 2016, Wolf said he renegotiated his contract. The parties agreed to a reduced salary but retained an earlier severance provision that required Imus pay Wolf 26 weeks’ salary if he terminated Wolf “without cause.”
During the negotiations, Wolf alleged, Imus terminated his employment in favor of a younger sports contributor. Wolf was 78 at the time. Imus said he ended Wolf's role on the show because he did not think Wolf could effectively do his job from Florida, as opposed to from the WABC studios in New York. Wolf alleged that this was merely a pretext for age discrimination, as there was nothing in his prior contract that required him to “provide his services to the show from New York,” and in fact, Imus himself worked from a home studio in Texas.
Wolf sued Imus for age discrimination under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL. But in a September 27, 2018, order, Justice James E. D'Auguste dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The judge explained that given Wolf “is a Florida resident that worked in Florida, he lacks any viable claim” under New York law as “the impact of any alleged discriminatory conduct would have been in Florida.”
Speak with a New York Age Discrimination Lawyer Today
Establishing jurisdiction is just one of many legal hurdles a discrimination plaintiff must overcome. If you need advice from an experienced New York employment law attorney in building and winning your own age discrimination claim, contact the Law Offices of White, Nisar & Hilferty, LLP, today.