Plaintiff Sufficiently Alleged Disability Discrimination Against JetBlue

In Dooley v. JetBlue Airways Corp., No. 15-1356-CV, 2015 WL 9261293 (2d Cir. Dec. 18, 2015), a Summary Order, the Second Circuit vacated the dismissal of plaintiff’s claim of disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Initially, the court held, contrary to the district court, that plaintiff sufficiently alleged discrimination under the ADA. The Second Circuit explained:

[A] plaintiff is not required to plead a prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas … to defeat a motion to dismiss,” and with respect to the “inference of discriminatory intent” requirement, “a plaintiff need only give plausible support to a minimal inference of discriminatory motivation” at the pleading stage. Vega, 801 F.3d at 84 (internal quotation marks omitted). *5 Dooley has done so here. As she correctly argues, “[t]here was … proof of pretext in [her] … [a]mended [c]omplaint”—namely, that “[o]rdinarily [,] [JetBlue] follows a progressive discipline policy regarding dependability” that includes a multi-step process, but that she “was afforded none of these steps.” Pl.’s Br. 28–29 (internal quotation marks omitted). When coupled with the closeness in time between the injury that caused her alleged disability and JetBlue’s initiation of the process that ultimately resulted in her firing, see A–36–37 (alleging that Dooley was “suspended without pay pending an investigation of dependability” approximately two months after she was injured, and fired approximately one-and-a-half months thereafter), these allegations “give plausible support to a minimal inference of discriminatory motivation.”

The court also rejected defendant’s argument that plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that she is disabled, reasoning that plaintiff plausibly alleged that she meets the definition of “disability” under the ADA “by stating that she suffered a fracture and also damage to the ulnar and median nerve distributions, resulting in temporary total disability … and, ultimately, permanent partial disability with limitations on lifting and repetitive motion, and that her “injury took her off work for medical care and treatment.”

The court, however, affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s ADA failure-to-accommodate, Title VII retaliation, and Title VII discrimination claims.