Court Upholds Jury Verdict That Failure to Allow Work From Home Amounted to Denial of Reasonable Accommodation for Disability

In Vangas v. Montefiore Medical Center, 11-cv-6722 (SDNY 4/3/15), the Southern District of New York (among other rulings) upheld a jury verdict that the defendant failed to accommodate the plaintiff’s disability (cancer) in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law.

In this disability discrimination case, defendant terminated plaintiff from her position as an analyst about five months after she was diagnosed with cancer and after she exhausted her FMLA leave.

The law generally provides that “the employer’s response to the employee’s request and any ensuing dialogue about the impact of the proposed accommodation on the employer’s business inform the determination of whether a reasonable accommodation exists.”

In upholding the jury verdict for plaintiff, the court explained:

Here, the jury heard evidence that Mrs. Vangas specifically requested to work from home, and that this request was either summarily rejected or simply ignored. [T]he NYSHRL prizes reasonableness, and nothing can be more reasonable than an open-minded discussion resulting in a viable compromise. In the case of the request to work from home, there was no such discussion and, therefore, no such compromise. Moreover … the jury heard evidence that would have allowed them to conclude that the proposed accommodation was possible, and therefore presumably reasonable and would not have caused undue hardship on MMC, but that it was unwilling to extend that option to employees below a certain level. Therefore, Mrs. Vangas met her burden at trial of proving the existence of a reasonable accommodation that would have enabled [her] to perform the essential functions of … her position.

This decision does not, of course, stand for the proposition that working from home is a reasonable accommodation in general, or in all cases.

Share This: