Hearing Impairment-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Survives Dismissal

In Defranco v. New York Power Authority, 20-CV-1861-LJV, 2024 WL 1621533 (W.D.N.Y. April 15, 2024), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s disability (hearing impairment) based hostile work environment asserted under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York State Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

This Court finds that the allegations that “Sinatra conducted a meeting where [DeFranco] was openly chastised and mocked by the other security sergeants with respect to his job performance and hearing impairment” and that “Sinatra had intentionally held meetings where [DeFranco] would be unable to hear instruction and direction due to his hearing disability” support a hostile work environment claim. Docket Item 23-1 at ¶ 23. And although those allegations took place outside the statute of limitations period, DeFranco has alleged “escalating hostilities” followed by a series of timely adverse disciplinary actions.

Taking all those allegations as true—as the Court must at this stage—DeFranco has plausibly alleged a hostile work environment based on his hearing impairment. More specifically, it is plausible that DeFranco was mocked and ostracized based on his hearing disability and then subjected to a series of adverse disciplinary actions that were “part of the course of discriminatory treatment that comprise[d] the hostile environment.”

However, the court denied defendant’s motion. (The court also denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of discrimination and retaliation.)

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