NYPD Officer Characterized as “Delusional” Plausibly Alleges Disability Discrimination Claims

In Rodriguez v. City of New York, decided January 23, 2015, the Eastern District of New York held that plaintiff, a NYPD officer, sufficiently alleged a claim for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

Plaintiff alleges that the City discriminated against him on the basis of its false perception that he suffered from “Delusional Disorder.” Specifically, he claims that a psychologist told him that his NYPD Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint was “baseless” and that he was “delusional.”

Here is the legal standard:

To establish a claim of disability discrimination under the ADA, a claimant must allege that: (1) the defendant is covered by the ADA; (2) he suffers from or is regarded as suffering from a disability within the meaning of the ADA; (3) he was qualified to perform the essential functions of his job, with or without reasonable accommodation; and (4) he suffered an adverse employment action because of his disability or perceived disability.

First, the court held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged that he was perceived as being disabled within the meaning of the ADA:

Rodriguez plausibly alleges that the City perceived him as suffering from a disability within the meaning of the ADA. Under the ADA, a “disability” is: (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) a record of such an impairment; or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment. See 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). Rodriguez alleges that [psychologist] Dr. Irvine told him that the NYPD believed he was “delusional” and falsely diagnosed him with “Delusional Disorder.” Such allegations clearly raise a reasonable inference that the City regarded Rodriguez as having a mental impairment.

Second, the court held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged that he was qualified to perform the essential functions of his job:

“The term essential functions means the fundamental job duties of the employment position the individual with a disability holds or desires.” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(n)(1). Rodriguez alleges that he had an exemplary job performance record and was never disciplined by the NYPD. Rodriguez also alleges that medical sources opined that he was fit for duty and that he did not suffer from “Delusional Disorder.” These allegations plausibly establish that Rodriguez was capable of performing his essential job functions. In any event, dismissal at this early stage on this element would be premature.

Third, the court held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged that he suffered an “adverse employment action”, which is “a materially adverse change in the terms and conditions of employment.” Here,

Rodriguez alleges that the City forced him into retirement by submitting a false disability retirement application to the Article II Board that contained Dr. Irvine’s alleged misdiagnosis of “Delusional Disorder.” … Drawing all reasonable inferences in Rodriguez’s favor, he has plausibly alleged that the City’s “false perception and misdiagnosis” of disability resulted in his forced retirement.

Since plaintiff sufficiently alleged a disability discrimination claim under the ADA, he sufficiently alleged claims under the broader NYSHRL and NYCHRL.

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