Probationary Corrections Officer Sufficiently Alleges That Rikers Island-Related Hives and Allergic Reactions Constituted a “Disability” Under the NYC Human Rights Law

In Matter of Cruz v. Schriro, 2016 NY Slip Op 50363(U) (NY Sup Ct. NY Cty. March 24, 2016), the court held that the petitioner – a probationary NYC Dept. of Correction Correction Officer – sufficiently alleged that he suffered a “disability” under the NYC Human Rights Law and that the respondent failed to accommodate his disability.

Petitioner alleged that, while training on Rikers Island, he experienced allergic reactions, difficulty breathing, hives, and swelling. He took sick leave and requested a transfer because of his allergic reactions associated with Rikers. Plaintiff was terminated based on excessive absences.

Judge Stallman held, initially, that the petitioner sufficiently alleged that he suffered a “disability” under the NYC Human Rights Law. That statute defines “disability” broadly as “any physical, medical, mental or psychological impairment, or a history or record of such impairment.” The court concluded that “petitioner has sufficiently alleged, and presented sufficient evidence, including medical documentation, to show that his hives and other allergic reactions, even if their etiology is uncertain, represent a physical impairment and/or a record of a physical impairment falling within the NYCHRL’s broad definition of disability.”

The court also held that petitioner sufficiently alleged that respondents failed to accommodate his disability. “[U]nder the NYCHRL, an employer has an obligation to consider a reasonable accommodation, where the disability is known or should have been known, even in the absence of a formal request.” It found that respondents were aware of petitioner’s disability; that petitioner requested an accommodation, which respondents did not grant or consider; and that respondents failed to engage in an interactive process with the petitioner, as required by law.

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