County Employee States Disability-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Following Foot Injury

In Dipinto v. Westchester County et al, 2020 WL 6135902 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 19, 2020), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s disability-related hostile work environment claims asserted under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York State Human Rights Law.

In sum, plaintiff alleged that he suffered mistreatment after he injured his foot.

After summarizing the legal standard for a hostile work environment, the court explained:

Here, Defendants argue only that Plaintiff did not plead an objectively hostile work environment. (Def. Br. at 7-9; Reply Br. at 2-3). The Court disagrees. Plaintiff pled that: (1) on February 5, 2016, the day he was injured, Bryant directed Plaintiff not to fill out a workers’ compensation claim, warned Plaintiff that submitting a claim would jeopardize Plaintiff’s employment, and mused that if Plaintiff’s injury prevented him from working that Plaintiff was “not cut out to work” for the County (SAC ¶¶ 38, 42-46); (2) on March 2, 2016, Bryant berated Plaintiff for being “one of the worst” employees but, when pressed for an explanation, admitted he could not articulate a reason (id. ¶¶ 56-58); (3) on March 12, 2016, the day after Plaintiff’s first attempt to request a transfer, Bryant told Plaintiff that the latter got “injured too easily to work” for the County (id. ¶¶ 60-62); (4) on March 18, 2016, Bryant warned Plaintiff against complaining about discriminatory treatment and stated, “Remember[,] you’re still on probation, the County looks down on things like this” (id. ¶¶ 67-69); (5) on April 12, 2016, Bryant made Plaintiff walk “over a mile” needlessly, while aware of Plaintiff’s disability (id. ¶ 71-73); (6) on April 25, 2016, Bryant again criticized Plaintiff’s performance and Plaintiff was advised by another employee, “I don’t know what [Bryant’s] problem is with you, but just try to [sic] your best to avoid him. [Bryant] has a target on your back” (id. ¶¶ 74-75); (7) on May 2, 2016, Bryant directed that Plaintiff work permanently only in “Samples,” the most physically demanding position, despite the fact that employees usually rotated through that position to keep the “workload fair,” in order to injure Plaintiff (id. ¶¶ 76-85); (8) on May 20, 2016, Bryant advised another employee that Plaintiff “is useless, I’m going to make his life hell until he quits” (id. ¶ 89); (9) on June 20, 2016, Bryant demanded that Plaintiff’s immediate supervisor be “harder on” Plaintiff (id. ¶ 90); and (10) on August 23, 2016 Bryant terminated Plaintiff, stating, “I don’t have to give you a reason, now take your shit and go!” (id. ¶¶ 91-92).

Looking to the totality of the circumstances, accepting the above-cited allegations as true while giving Plaintiff the benefit of every inference, and bearing in mind that “the Second Circuit has cautioned against ‘setting the bar too high’ at the motion to dismiss stage,” Rella, 2020 WL 918767, at *5 (quoting Terry v. Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 148 (2d Cir. 2003)) (denying motion to dismiss ADA hostile work environment claim), these allegations suggest plausibly that Plaintiff suffered an objectively hostile work environment that altered the conditions of his employment for the worse from the time he injured his foot until his termination. See, e.g., id. (plaintiff alleged that she “was subjected to mistreatment by [a coworker] on multiple occasions” over four months); Salas v. New York City Dep’t of Investigation, 298 F. Supp. 3d 676, 684-85 (S.D.N.Y. 2018) (denying motion to dismiss hostile work environment claim where coworker mocked plaintiff’s stutter on a daily basis); Arnold v. Research Found. for State Univ. of New York, 216 F. Supp. 3d 275, 290 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 20, 2016) (finding amendment would plausibly state a hostile work environment claim against defendants whose “comments about the Plaintiff’s use of a handicapped bathroom, cane and freight elevator plausibly support the allegation that Plaintiff faced harassment that altered her employment”); Zavala v. Cornell Univ., 9 F. Supp. 3d 213, 220 (N.D.N.Y. 2014) (denying motion for judgment on the pleadings because plaintiff, who suffered from Type 1 Diabetes, stated hostile work environment claim where his supervisors’ actions included “their threats regarding Plaintiff’s use of internal human resources mechanisms” and assigning Plaintiff “tasks that required more walking,” while aware of his mobility restrictions).

Based on this, the court denied defendants’ motion.

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