PTSD-Disability Discrimination Claim Dismissed, Absent Evidence That Decisionmakers Knew of Plaintiff’s Condition

In Murray v. Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York et al, 16-cv-662, 2018 WL 264112 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 2, 2018), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s claim that he was discriminated against based on his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).[1]The court also dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment and retaliation claims. As to the former, the court observed that while “the Second Circuit has not decided whether a hostile work environment claim is cognizable under the ADA … [d]istrict courts within this Circuit … have recognized such claims, applying the same standard applicable to hostile work environment claims under Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964].”

The court explained:

Plaintiff’s argument that HR’s knowledge of his PTSD may be imputed to Defendants is unavailing. Under Second Circuit law, a plaintiff alleging discrimination on account of his protected status must offer evidence that a decision-maker was personally aware of his protected status to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. Woodman v. WWOR-TV, Inc., 411 F.3d 69, 87–88 (2d Cir. 2005) (“To defeat summary judgment, [plaintiff] was obliged to do more than produce evidence that someone at [the employer] knew her age. She was obliged to offer evidence indicating that persons who actually participated in her termination decision had such knowledge.”); Lambert v. McCann Erickson, 543 F. Supp. 2d 265, 278 n. 12 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (“[A] plaintiff must offer evidence that a decision-maker was aware of her protected status to establish a prima facie case of discrimination.”). In order to avoid summary judgment, therefore, Plaintiff must do more than offer evidence that someone at HR knew he had PTSD before he was suspended and terminated. He must offer some evidence that either Ms. Miller or Ms. Pshena knew he had PTSD before they decided to suspend him, and that either Ms. Miller, Ms. Pshena, or Mr. Pancari knew he had PTSD before they decided to terminate him.

Plaintiff failed to offer such proof; thus the court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s Americans with Disabilities Act claim.

1 The court also dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment and retaliation claims. As to the former, the court observed that while “the Second Circuit has not decided whether a hostile work environment claim is cognizable under the ADA … [d]istrict courts within this Circuit … have recognized such claims, applying the same standard applicable to hostile work environment claims under Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964].”
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