Decision: Bipolar Plaintiff’s Disability Discrimination Case Dismissed

In Dorgan v. Suffolk County Community College, 12-cv-0330 (EDNY Aug. 4, 2014), the Eastern District of New York granted defendants summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim of disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Plaintiff, who was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, alleged that defendants subjected her to discrimination and terminated her based on an actual and/or perceived disability and/or record of impairment and in retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation. The court explained:

A plaintiff asserting a violation of the ADA must prove that: (1) the defendant is covered by the ADA; (2) plaintiff suffers from or is regarded as suffering from a disability within the meaning of the ADA; (3) plaintiff was qualified to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation; and (4) plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action because of his disability or perceived disability.

The court assumed that plaintiff’s medical condition constituted a “disability”, but dismissed her case because she failed to prove that she “was qualified to perform the essential functions of her job, with or without a reasonable accommodation”:

The undisputed evidence demonstrates that plaintiff was offered numerous reasonable accommodations, which ultimately resulted in her start time being delayed by two (2) hours. The Court agrees with defendants that [p]laintiff’s claim that even though she was granted several extensions of her start time, she still needed an additional 15 minute grace period is simply illogical as she, and she alone, determined when she began her commute to work each morning and could have left her home 15 minutes earlier. Despite receiving these reasonable accommodations, plaintiff has not worked since November 2010.

Courts have consistently ruled that an employee cannot be considered otherwise qualified when she is unable to report to work at the time required, because she is not able to perform the essential functions of her job. … [C]ourts have specifically noted that [t]he ADA does not require employers to tolerate chronic absenteeism even when attendance problems are caused by an employee’s disability. Accordingly, plaintiff cannot demonstrate that she is able to perform the essential functions of her job, given that she has not reported to work in more than three (3) years. Therefore, defendants are entitled to summary judgment in their favor on plaintiff’s ADA discrimination claim.

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