Failure to Request Specific Accommodation Results in Dismissal of Disability Discrimination (Failure to Accommodate) Claims

In Martinez v. Mount Sinai Hosp., No. 14 CIV. 2548 (PAC), 2015 WL 9450624 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 22, 2015), the court dismissed plaintiff’s failure-to-accommodate-disability claims under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

The law:

To prevail on her NYCHRL and NYSHRL claims, Plaintiff bears the initial burden of making a prima facie showing that (i) she suffered from a disability within the meaning of the statutes; (ii) Mount Sinai knew she suffered from the disability; (iii) she could have performed her job with reasonable accommodation; and (iv) Mount Sinai failed to make such accommodation. An employer is not liable for failure to accommodate a disability that it is unaware of, and it is the responsibility of the individual with a disability to inform the employer that an accommodation is needed. After an employee requests an accommodation, the employer must engage in [an] ‘interactive process’ of finding a suitable accommodation. The employer must provide an effective accommodation; it is not required to provide a perfect accommodation or the very accommodation most strongly preferred by the employee.

Here, although the court found a genuine issue of material fact as to whether defendant knew of plaintiff’s disability, it held that she failed to create a genuine issue of material fact “as to whether she requested an accommodation and whether Mount Sinai failed to offer a reasonable accommodation.”

Judge Crotty explained:

At most, the record shows that Plaintiff informed her supervisors only that “the latenesses were caused by my eye condition.” There is no evidence in the record that Plaintiff requested the specific accommodation that she now implicitly argues Mount Sinai was required to provide—full freedom to frequently and without prior warning come to work hours past her scheduled start time. … Indeed, Mount Sinai offered to accommodate Plaintiff’s lateness by allowing her to switch her start time to 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. Plaintiff chose the 8:30 a.m. accommodation and there is no evidence that she informed Mount Sinai that this accommodation was inadequate.

The court therefore granted defendant’s, and denied plaintiff’s, motion for summary judgment.

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