NYSHRL Disability Discrimination Claim Survives Dismissal; Inference Supported by Termination 8 Days After Disclosure of Disability

In Minor v Essence Ventures, LLC, No. 533765/2023, 2024 N.Y. Slip Op. 50758(U), 2024 WL 3212243 (NY Sup Ct Kings Cty, June 23, 2024), the court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s disability discrimination claim asserted under the New York State Human Rights Law.

This decision is instructive as to how courts assess the sufficiency of allegations asserted under this statute.

From the decision:

A plaintiff alleging discrimination in violation of NYSHRL must establish that (1) he or she is a member of a protected class, (2) he or she was qualified to hold the position, (3) he or she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) the adverse action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination” (Lefort v Kingsbrook Jewish Med. Ctr., 203 AD3d 708, 709-710 [2d Dept 2022]); (see Reichman v City of New York, 179 AD3d 1115 [2d Dept 2020]; Ayers v Bloomberg, L.P., 203 AD3d 872 [2d Dept 2022]).

In this case, Plaintiff has established she is a member of a protected class due to her disability. “Disability” as defined by the New York State Human Rights Law is “ ‘limited to disabilities which, upon the provision of reasonable accommodations, do not prevent the complainant from performing in a reasonable manner the activities involved in the job or occupation sought or held’ (Executive Law § 292 [21])” (Romanello v Intesa Sanpaolo, S.p.A., 22 NY3d 881, 883-884 [2013]). On December 20, 2020, Plaintiff suffered seizures, affecting her ability to speak, operate her bodily motor functions, and impairing her memory. Thereafter it was ascertained through a brain MRI that Plaintiff had white matter on her brain, which caused her seizures. (See NYSCEF Doc No. 14, first amended complaint ¶¶ 13, 20.)
Here, Plaintiff alleged in her complaint that her disability would not have impeded her from performing the requirements of her job. She needed time off to attend doctor’s appointments. However, even if she were not provided with the requested, reasonable accommodation, she would have been able to satisfactorily perform her job functions. Plaintiff has also alleged in her amended complaint that she was qualified to hold her position prior to her termination. In support of this prong, Plaintiff claimed that she worked for Defendants for approximately two years and did not receive any verbal or written warnings about her performance. In support of the third prong, Plaintiff has alleged that she suffered an adverse employment action in the form of being terminated from her position.

Finally, there is an inference of discrimination at play as Plaintiff disclosed her disability to her manager on December 21, 2022, and was terminated eight days later, on December 29, 2022.

The court concluded that, for the reasons stated above, plaintiff’s complaint meets the CPLR pleading standards at this prediscovery stage in the litigation.

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