New York Office Prevails on Appeal in High-Profile Sexual Harassment Case

(March 2022) - New York Partner Elior D. Shiloh and Associate Ariadne Panagopoulou secured a significant appellate victory on behalf of a multinational corporation with numerous affiliate entities worldwide when the New York Appellate Division, First Department, dismissed a sexual harassment suit brought by the client’s former employee.

In this case, the plaintiff had been employed as a manager in one of the client’s affiliates in Mexico. She filed a complaint in New York’s Supreme Court alleging various employment and tort-based claims. Because the complaint included allegations regarding the company’s internal operations, it attracted the attention of various media outlets. In 2019, Lewis Brisbois filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety. The trial court granted the motion in part, dismissing all the plaintiff’s causes of action, except for her New York State and City Human Rights Law (NYSHRL and NYCHRL) claims.

Lewis Brisbois subsequently appealed the portion of the trial court’s order denying the dismissal of the plaintiff’s employment claims, arguing that the court had failed to apply the law in a proper manner. Specifically, we contended that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claims because, at all relevant times, she resided and was employed in Mexico. Accordingly, the plaintiff could not satisfy the “impact” requirement – the seminal test employed in determining whether the court has jurisdiction pursuant to the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL – which requires that the impact of the alleged sexually harassing conduct be felt within the boundaries of New York State and New York City, respectively.

Following oral argument before a panel of five justices of New York’s Appellate Division, First Department, the panel unanimously granted our appeal. Specifically, it held that the Supreme Court had lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim because the “[d]efendants’ alleged conduct occurred while plaintiff was physically situated outside of New York and did not have any impact on the terms, conditions or extent of her employment within the boundaries of New York.” The appellate court also rejected the plaintiff’s principal argument in response, namely, that the defendant’s alleged conduct had an impact on the plaintiff’s co-workers who were situated in New York, noting that “impact on third parties is irrelevant.” The First Department directed the clerk to enter judgment dismissing the entirety of the plaintiff’s complaint.

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