ADA Discrimination Claim Sufficiently Alleged; Facts Indicated “Animosity” to Accommodate Plaintiff’s Disability

In Solomon v. County of Nassau, No. 20-cv-5227, 2021 WL 5631766 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 1, 2021), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim of disability discrimination asserted under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The court summarized the black-letter law regarding discrimination based on (including failure to accommodate) one’s “disability”:

Discrimination under the ADA includes “not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, unless such covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of such covered entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A); accord 29 C.F.R. § 1630.9(a). The individual with a disability generally has the responsibility “to inform the employer that an accommodation is needed.” Graves v. Finch Pruyn & Co., 457 F.3d 181, 184 (2d Cir. 2006). Once that request is provided, the ADA contemplates that “employers will engage in an interactive process with their employees and in that way work together to assess whether an employee’s disability can be reasonably accommodated.” Brady v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 531 F.3d 127, 135 (2d Cir. 2008). An employer impedes this process when “the employer knows of the employee’s disability; the employee requests accommodations or assistance; the employer does not in good faith assist the employee in seeking accommodations; and the employee could have been reasonably accommodated but for the employer’s lack of good faith.” Goonan v. Fed. Reserve Bank of New York, 916 F.Supp.2d 470, 480 (S.D.N.Y. 2013). Further, “[c]ourts must deny motions to dismiss … when presented with conflicting facts about the provenance of a breakdown [in the interactive process].” Id.

Applying the law to the facts, the court explained:

After reviewing the allegations concerning the willingness of Defendant to address Plaintiff’s complaints and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiff, the Court denies Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim of discrimination under the ADA. There are conflicting facts regarding whether Defendant engaged in an interactive process to accommodate Plaintiff in a satisfactory manner. On the one hand, Defendant offered and transferred Plaintiff to new office locations in response to her complaints about the perfume odor and wasp problem in her workspace and retained an outside cleaning company to remediate the mold problem in the Mineola office. Defendant, however, failed to install screens in Plaintiff’s office to prevent insects from intruding, failed to repair the ventilation issues in the offices, and failed to adequately warn Plaintiff’s colleagues about the harmful effects various odors had on her health. In addition, Karcinski advised Plaintiff’s coworkers to not speak with Plaintiff since she was “trouble” and warned Plaintiff that she better not start trouble since she was lucky to have moved offices at all. These incidents reflect Defendant’s animosity to act in good faith to accommodate Plaintiff.

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