NYPD Officer’s Disability Discrimination Claims Sufficiently Alleged, Court Holds

In Oliveras v. City of New York, No. 159011/2020, 2021 WL 4868415 (N.Y. Sup Ct, N.Y. Cty. Oct. 19, 2021), the court held that plaintiff (a NYPD Officer) sufficiently alleged that he was subject to disability discrimination under the N.Y.C. Human Rights Law, and therefore denied defendants’ motion to dismiss.

From the decision:

Here, accepting the truth of plaintiff’s allegations and resolving all inferences in his favor, plaintiff has adequately pled that defendants failed to accommodate his disability in violation of the NYCHRL. See e.g., D’Amico v City of New York, 159 AD3d 558, 558 [1st Dept 2018] (internal citation omitted) (“plaintiff has adequately pleaded claims for disability discrimination under a theory of failure to accommodate . . .. Notably, there is no indication that following plaintiff’s request for light duty, defendants entered into an interactive dialogue with him in an attempt to reach some reasonable accommodation”).

It is undisputed that plaintiff was disabled. The Court disagrees with the City’s contention that a formal request must be made for an accommodation. The NYPD has an affirmative obligation “to accommodate an officer’s needs when it is aware of the officer’s disability.” (Benitez v City of NY, 193 AD3d 42, 47 [1st Dept 2021]).

Viewing the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint as true, as this Court must, dismissal is not warranted. The facts are well settled in that the plaintiff’s history of alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder were well known to the City. The City in fact freely acknowledges that the plaintiff suffers from a disability. According to the plaintiff, he was evaluated on August 20, 2019 and he was only asked if he was suicidal, and he informed the person who examined him that he was taking Prozac.

Assuming all allegations are true, then the actions taken by the City following this examination are actionable. The City did not engage the plaintiff in the cooperative dialogue required. Moreover, he was transferred multiple times over the next few weeks, which if true, could have exacerbated the conditions that he suffered from. In addition, while the plaintiff says that he was not able to take Rivotril injections that he was required to take, and the City argues they were unaware of his need to take this medication, there remains the question of whether the City should have been aware of the plaintiff’s need for these injections. Only through discovery could this information be ascertained.

The court did, however, dismiss plaintiff’s claims (as insufficiently pled) for retaliation, hostile work environment, and negligent training, supervision and failure to discipline.

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