Your Subject Doesn’t Matter: Subject Matter Jurisdiction and the Human Rights Law in Hoffman v. Parade Publications

Lisa Alexander, Public Relations Chair, Albany Government Law Review Member

Introduction

Mr. Howard Hoffman said he was fired because of his age.  The New York Court of Appeals essentially said too bad.  In a 4-3 decision, the court held that since Mr. Hoffman was “neither a resident of, nor employed in, the City or State of New York . . . .  [and did not] state a claim that the alleged discriminatory conduct had any impact in either of those locations” he was not covered by the Human Rights Laws and thus his claim was properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[1] Though the majority strenuously argued that non-residents who are unable to show that a discriminatory act had an impact in New York are prevented from bringing claims under the Human Rights Laws, this conclusion is contrary to precedent and public policy.

The New York City and State Human Rights Laws

At issue in Hoffman was the scope of the protection granted by the New York City and State Human Rights laws.  The stated purpose of the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) is to

assure that every individual within [New York] is afforded an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life and that the failure to provide such equal opportunity . . . not only threatens the rights and proper privileges of its inhabitants but . . . threatens the peace, order, health, safety and general welfare of the state and its inhabitants.[2]

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