Good news for New York employers: A new federal court decision says that you don’t have to comply with stricter anti-discrimination laws in an employee’s home state if the person works in New York. Employees can sue only in the state where they work.
That may seem like common sense, but it took a federal court decision to clarify the law.
Recent case: Tracy Kelman battled colitis and Crohn’s disease for most of his life. Eventually, he had to have surgery and wear a colostomy bag.
Kelman lived in New Jersey but worked for Foot Locker in New York City. When he began having trouble doing his job, he told about his disability. He claimed co-workers made embarrassing comments about his odor.
After his performance didn’t improve, Foot Locker fired him. Although his condition wasn’t serious enough to be a disability under the federal ADA, it did qualify under the more generous New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Kelman sued Foot Locker, alleging it had violated the New Jersey disability law.
The federal court tossed out the case. It reasoned that an employer can be expected to comply only with federal law and the law in the state where its employees work. Otherwise, employers would need to have multiple rules for a single workplace, depending on where employees lived. (Kelman v. Foot Locker, No. 05-CV-2069, DC NJ, 2006)