Disability Discrimination Claims Survive Dismissal; Court Notes Denial of Plaintiff Request for Separation From Alleged Harasser

In Butrym v. Sarsick et al, 20-CV-292, 2021 WL 1927073 (N.D.N.Y. May 13,  2021), the court, inter alia, held that plaintiff plausibly alleged claims that defendants failed to accommodate her disability, and terminated her because of her disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The court summarized plaintiff’s claims, in part, as follows:

On November 12, 2018, the School District hired non-party Megan Quinn (“Quinn”) as a substitute school bus driver. Plaintiff alleges that she and Quinn went to high school together, that Quinn knew about plaintiff’s disabilities, and that Quinn had “threatened” her in the past. Once Quinn started her job at the School District, Butrym alleges she would “always stare” at plaintiff and “give [her] looks of disgust.” Plaintiff also alleges that Quinn drove dangerously, ate peanuts on the bus, and treated the students poorly. Plaintiff alleges that she complained about Quinn’s behavior to her supervisors but that they did not investigate it. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that she “repeatedly asked to be kept separated from” Quinn because it “aggravated [her] anxiety.” [Citations omitted, paragraphing altered, cleaned up.]

The court held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged her claims of failure to accommodate, as well as discriminatory discharge.

From the decision:

Upon review, Butrym’s failure-to-accommodate claim survives pre-answer dismissal. “At the motion to dismiss stage, the [defendant] bears the weighty burden of showing that the fact-intensive inquiry prerequisite to a finding of reasonable accommodation falls completely in its favor.”

Defendants have not carried this burden. Butrym’s amended complaint alleges that she informed various supervisors at the School District on multiple occasions that she suffers from anxiety, OCD, and high-functioning autism. Plaintiff alleges that she “repeatedly asked to be kept separated from” Quinn because it “aggravated [her] anxiety” to the point that she became “physically sick.”

Butrym further alleges that she complained about Quinn to her supervisors, who failed to take action. When plaintiff tried avoiding Quinn by walking between schools, she alleges that Czub, the Director of Transportation, made her stop. In short, plaintiff has plausibly alleged that she requested from her employer (and her employer refused to provide) a limited accommodation that would ameliorate the physical symptoms of her anxiety, which interfered with her ability to work. Accordingly, plaintiff has plausibly alleged a failure to accommodate under the ADA.

Upon review, Butrym’s employment discrimination claim also survives pre-answer dismissal. Plaintiff alleges that on March 25, 2019, she again told Mazure, a supervisor, that riding a bus driven by Quinn every day “was aggravating [her] anxiety to the point it was making [her] physically sick.” Plaintiff later met with Sarsick and Czub about this problem, who then explicitly told plaintiff she was being fired for her “health and well-being.” In short, plaintiff has plausibly alleged that defendants terminated her because of her disability.

[Citations omitted, cleaned up.]

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