Court Upholds Disability Discrimination Jury Verdict For for Needle-Fearing Pharmacist

In Stevens v. Rite Aid Corp., No. 6:13-CV-783, 2015 WL 5602949 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 23, 2015), a disability discrimination case, plaintiff – a pharmacist working for Rite Aid – alleged that defendant violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York State Human Rights Law by discharging him because of his disability (trypanophobia), failing to provide him a “reasonable accommodation” for his disability, and retaliating against him because he exercised his rights.

A jury awarded plaintiff more than $1 million in damages. In this decision the court rules on defendant’s post-trial motions, namely, for judgment as a matter of law (FRCP 50) and for a new trial (FRCP 59). .

As to defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law of plaintiff’s disability claims under the ADA, the court held that plaintiff sufficiently proved to the jury that his trypanophobia was a “disability” within the meaning of the law (in that it qualified as an “impairment” that “substantially limited him in performing a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs in various classes as compared to the average person having comparable training, skills and abilities”); that “giving immunizations was not an essential function of a pharmacist’s job with Rite Aid”; and that defendant wrongfully terminated plaintiff in violation of the ADA.

The court denied defendants’ motion with respect to plaintiff’s ADA retaliation claim, finding that the “evidence was sufficient for the Jury to reasonably conclude that there was a causal connection between Plaintiff’s protected activity of requesting an accommodation and his discharge—an adverse action separate from the failure to accommodate.”

The court dismissed plaintiff’s ADA failure to accommodate claim, since plaintiff failed to demonstrate that a reasonable accommodation existed.

Update: Stevens v. Rite Aid Corp., No. 15-277(L), 2017 WL 1055566 (2d Cir. Mar. 21, 2017).

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