Hostile Work Environment Claim, Based on Alcoholism Disability, Survives Summary Judgment

In Dineley v. Coach, Inc., No. 16-cv-3197 (DLC), 2017 WL 2963499 (S.D.N.Y. July 11, 2017), the court denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim based on her disability (alcoholism).

Initially, the court noted that while the Second Circuit has not yet decided whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides a basis for a hostile work environment claim, the court – noting that the ADA uses similar language to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – assumed that it does.

Applying the law, the court held:

Summary judgment is denied as to Dineley’s hostile work environment claim. Dineley identifies her disability as addiction to alcohol. The NYSHRL and ADA treat alcoholism as an impairment that can form the basis of a disability discrimination suit. [] The parties do not dispute that Dineley has a disability. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorably to Dineley, she has offered evidence that a jury could find demonstrates that the Design VP’s mistreatment of her after she took a disability leave in October 2014 was pervasive, and that it was because of her disability, or need for accommodation because of her disability. Dineley avers that comments relating to her disability were made repeatedly, and that this conduct began only after she took leave to attend rehabilitation. Ultimately, a jury must decide what comments were made by the Design VP, whether they were motivated by knowledge of Dineley’s disability and need for treatment, and whether they were sufficiently pervasive to create a hostile work environment.

The court, however, granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s constructive discharge claim. It held that plaintiff “failed to offer evidence that would permit a jury to find that her working conditions … were so intolerable person that a reasonable person would feel compelled to resign” and “failed to offer evidence of conduct by the Design VP from which a jury could conclude that supervisor acted deliberately to force Dineley’s resignation.”

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