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New York Court Discusses Failure to Make a Reasonable Accommodation Claim

March 16, 2020

People with disabilities are afforded many protections under the law, including the right to reasonable accommodation. Whether a plaintiff made a request for a reasonable accommodation and whether his or her request was rightfully denied is generally a question of fact. Recently, the United States District Court of the Northern District of New York discussed what a plaintiff must allege to set forth a viable failure to make a reasonable accommodation claim under New York law. If you have a disability and suffered discrimination in the workplace due to your disability, it is prudent to consult a skillful New York disability discrimination attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Discrimination

It is alleged that the plaintiff worked for the defendant as a mental health therapy aide. She has a learning disability that makes it difficult for her to write, comprehend, and learn new tasks. She asserted that she began to experience discrimination based on her disability, in that a nurse began to harass her due to the method in which she was completing an assignment, despite the fact that the nurse knew about her disability.

The plaintiff further alleged that the nurse ignored her request for an accommodation and began shaming the plaintiff as a result of the disability. The plaintiff reported the hostile work environment to her supervisor, who refused to intervene. The plaintiff ultimately filed a lawsuit alleging claims of disability discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing in part that the plaintiff failed to set forth sufficient facts to support a claim of failure to make a reasonable accommodation.

Elements of a Failure to Make a Reasonable Accommodation Claim

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are prohibited from discriminating against disabled employees based on their disability. A plaintiff can allege disability discrimination under multiple theories, including failure to make a reasonable accommodation. In the subject case, the defendant argued that the plaintiff did not have a qualifying disability and did not request any accommodation. The court noted that the ADA defines a disability as a mental or physical impairment that limits one or more major life activities, such as performing tasks and brain functions, to a substantial degree.

Here, the court noted that the plaintiff alleged that she had a learning disability that impaired her ability to read and learn, both of which are major life activities. Further, the court stated that the plaintiff advised the nurse of her need for hands-on learning, thereby requesting an accommodation. The court clarified that a written request for an accommodation is not required, rather a request must be direct and adequately specific. As such, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s failure to make a reasonable accommodation claim.

Meet With a Trusted Employment Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If your suffered discrimination in the workplace due to a disability, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted New York employment discriminationattorney to assess whether you have a viable claim for damages. The capable employment attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP have the skills and experience needed to help you strive for a successful result. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at (212) 227-7070 for our Manhattan office or at (516) 880-8170 for our Garden City office to set up a free and confidential meeting.

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