NYPD Officer’s Disability Discrimination Claim Survives Dismissal

In Hyacinthe v. City of New York, No. 151812/2020, 2021 WL 619320, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 30443(U) (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Feb. 17, 2021), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s disability discrimination claim under the New York City Human Rights Law.

The court summarized the facts (specifically pertinent to plaintiff’s disparate treatment claim) as follows:

Plaintiff alleges that defendants discriminated against him in violation of the NYCHRL by treating him differently than officers who did not suffer from any disability. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that after he called out sick, his supervisors accused him of lying about his injuries, micromanaged him, and threatened to suspend him and take away his gun. At the time plaintiff made his accommodation request, his supervisor allegedly threatened to suspend him if he used his cane. Despite knowing that plaintiff needed a cane, his supervisor assigned him to a post where he was required to stand for seven hours and asked other officers to watch him.

Applying the law, the court explained:

Under the NYCHRL, the focus is on “unequal treatment based on [a protected characteristic] . . ..” Williams v New York City Housing Auth., 61 AD3d 62, 79 [1st Dept 2009]. “Thus, even assuming that a plaintiff could not prove that she[/he] was dismissed for a discriminatory reason, she[/he] could still recover for other differential treatment based on her[/his] [disability].” Suri v Grey Global Group, Inc., 164 AD3d 108, 120 [1st Dept 2018] (internal citation omitted). Accordingly, to establish a discrimination claim under the NYCHRL, plaintiff has to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence that she[/he] has been treated less well **14 than other employees because of her[/his] [protected characteristic].” Williams v New York City Housing Auth., 61 AD3d at 78.

*7 As set forth above, plaintiff has alleged that his supervisors made comments about his disability and has also asserted that defendants’ actions were motivated by a discriminatory animus. Compare Llanos v City of New York, 129 AD3d 620, 620 [1st Dept 2015] (“Plaintiff has not made any factual allegations that she was adversely treated under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination, as required to state a claim for discrimination under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws”). Given the liberal pleading standards, the court finds that plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that he was treated less well than other employees because of his disability. See e.g. Boncimino v N.Y. State Unified Court Sys., 2018 WL 2225004, *10, 2018 US Dist LEXIS 82024, *30 (SD NY 2018) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (Court held that at the motion to dismiss stage, “name-calling, posting of pictures, and mocking alleged in the Amended Complaint create a plausible claim for discrimination under the NYCHRL”); see also EBC I, Inc. v. Goldman Sachs & Co., 5 NY3d 11, 19 [2005] (“Whether a plaintiff can ultimately establish its allegations is not part of the calculus in determining a motion to dismiss”).

A plaintiff may sufficiently allege a violation of the NYCHRL by an employer’s failure to engage in the required individualized process to accommodate and also separately allege causes of action for disability discrimination. See e.g. Phillips v City of New York, 66 AD3d at 178 (“Separate and apart from the City’s failure to engage in an individualized interactive process in evaluating plaintiff’s request for accommodation, plaintiff has sufficiently pleaded causes of action for disability discrimination under both statutes”). Accordingly, at this stage, **15 defendants’ motion is denied with respect to plaintiff’s failure to accommodate and discrimination claims.

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