2d Circuit Overturns Dismissal of Disability Discrimination Complaint by Needle-Fearing Pharmacist

In Noel v. Wal-Mart Stores, East LP, 18-1139-cv (2d Cir. March 11, 2019) (Summary Order), the Second Circuit, inter alia, vacated the lower court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint. Plaintiff, who held the position of pharmacist manager, suffered from trypanophobia (or needle phobia). He sought an exemption from an alteration of his job description that would require him to administer immunizations.

The (narrow) question addressed by the court was whether administering immunizations was an “essential function” of plaintiff’s job. The court concluded that it could not be determined as a matter of law, that it was.

In reaching this conclusion, the court distinguished the facts of this case from its decision in Stevens v. Rite Aid Corp., 851 F.3d 224 (2d Cir. 2017), in which the court found that the needle-fearing pharmacist’s disability discrimination claim in that case could not be sustained. For example, while in Stevens “it was undisputed that Rite Aid changed the job description for pharmacists to include immunizations as an essential duty of the position,” in this case, plaintiff “specifically alleges that his job description had not yet changed as of the time of his constructive discharge, and Walmart’s July letter—which grants him an accommodation on the ground that administering injections was not an essential function of the job—tends to support that allegation.”

Here is the decision:

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