ADA Failure to Accommodate Disability (Wrist Tendonitis) Claim Survives Summary Judgment; Decision Below Vacated

In Greenbaum v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth., et al., 21-1777-cv (2d Cir. Aug. 15, 2022) (Summary Order), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the lower court’s order granting summary judgment to defendant on plaintiff’s claims asserted under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – including his failure-to-accommodate claim.

Among other things, the court held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the issue of whether plaintiff’s permanent wrist tendonitis is a “disability” within the meaning of the ADA (since a reasonable jury could conclude that he was substantially limited in the major life activity of working), as well as material issues of fact as to whether the proposed accommodation would impose an “undue burden” on plaintiff’s employer.

The court explained:

Greenbaum offered evidence that, after he began suffering from wrist pains, his physician ultimately restricted him, in November 2018, to 30 minutes of typing or clicking at a time, for a total of four hours a day—an assessment that was later confirmed by his employer’s medical staff. As a result of these limitations, which Greenbaum’s employer admitted substantially interfered with his job duties at OMB, he was placed on leave until such time that he was fit to return to duty or a reasonable accommodation was found. Greenbaum’s employment status was initially changed to “Restricted Work Temporary” and then to “Restricted Work Permanent” to reflect the indefinite duration of his disability. In addition, Greenbaum submitted evidence that, when he has a tendonitis flare-up, the pain from his permanent condition is magnified and he is not permitted to do any typing or mouse-clicking.
When viewed in the light most favorable to Greenbaum, this evidence creates a genuine issue of fact as to whether this impairment affected his ability to perform not just a particular
computer programming job, but rather a class of jobs involving use of a keyboard or mouse for periods of time beyond the limitations he experienced.

Based on its determination as to the existence of a “disability,” the court concluded that summary judgment on plaintiff’s ADA-based claims was not warranted.

It also further held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on plaintiff’s failure-to-accommodate claims under the ADA, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

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