2d Circuit Affirms Dismissal of ADA Discrimination, Retaliation, and Failure to Accommodate Claims

In Blodgett v. 22 South Street Operations, LLC, 2020 WL 5523540 (2d Cir. Sept. 15, 2020) (Summary Order), the court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s claims of discrimination, retaliation, and failure to accommodate in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and retaliation and interference with the exercise of rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The court summarized plaintiff’s contentions as follows:

[T]erminated Blodgett following a profanity-laden outburst in front of staff and residents at Fox Hill. Blodgett, who suffers from clinical depression, contends that Fox Hill’s stated reason for the firing was pretextual, and that she was in fact terminated because she requested a “reasonable accommodation” – a leave of absence that was protected under the FMLA – following that outburst.

It summarized the law:

The ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). Claims alleging adverse employment action based on disability discrimination are subject to the burden-shifting analysis established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). … To establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination, a plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) her employer is subject to the ADA; (2) she was disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (3) she was otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of [her] job, with or without reasonable accommodation; and (4) she suffered adverse employment action because of [her] disability. … The employer must then offer admissible evidence of a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action, which the plaintiff can rebut by showing evidence that the proffered reason was pretextual. …

Discrimination under the ADA also includes failing to make a reasonable accommodation. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A)[.] … A plaintiff establishes a prima facie claim under a failure-to-accommodate theory if she shows that (1) she is a person with a disability under the meaning of the ADA; (2) an employer covered by the statute had notice of [her] disability; (3) with reasonable accommodation, plaintiff could perform the essential functions of the job at issue; and (4) the employer has refused to make such accommodations. [Citations and internal quotation marks omitted.]

Applying the law, the court held that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination under any theory.

Initially, the court held that plaintiff was not a “qualified individual” under the ADA, since she could not, “with or without reasonable accommodation … perform the essential functions of the employment position[.]” See 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8) (defining “qualified individual”). Specifically, plaintiff “testified during a Social Security Administration hearing approximately six months after her termination that she became fully disabled on December 16, 2015, the day of her outburst, and that she remained disabled at the time of the hearing.”

While the court acknowledged that ‘a disability for the purposes of Social Security Disability Insurance [] benefits can differ from a disability for the purposes of an ADA claim, a plaintiff cannot simply ignore the apparent contradiction that arises out of the earlier SSDI total disability claim and must instead proffer a sufficient explanation for the discrepancy.” [Internal quotation marks omitted.]

Plaintiff could not do so here:

Here, the only “reasonable accommodation” that Blodgett requested was a brief period of time off following her outburst on December 16, 2015. And yet – six months later – she testified that she remained disabled. Having failed to address this discrepancy, or identify any other accommodation that might have enabled her to perform the essential functions of her job, Blodgett has not established even a prima facie case of disability discrimination.

All that said, the court concluded that even assuming that plaintiff was qualified to perform the essential functions of her job, and that her request for a leave of absence constituted a request for a reasonable accommodation, the record reflected that plaintiff’s request was granted following the incident, and that therefore, plaintiff failed to demonstrate a refusal to make accommodations, which was “fatal to her prima facie case of disability discrimination.”

Share This:
(212) 227-2100