Disability Discrimination Claim Dismissed; Unexcused Absences, Not Disability, Justified Termination

In Lettau v. 1199 Seiu Nat. Ben. Fund, No. 158020/2018, 2021 WL 143478, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 30122(U), 5–6 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Jan. 15, 2021), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s disability discrimination claim asserted under the New York City Human Rights Law.

From the decision:

There are no documents attached [to plaintiff’s summary judgment opposition] showing that [plaintiff] gave defendant medical documentation that his disabilities prevented him from working. While there is no doubt that plaintiff suffered from various ailments, that does not mean he was permitted to simply ignore defendant’s attendance policy or that he was fired because of a disability.

The fact is that nearly every person suffers from health issues from time to time. And defendant set up a policy to account for that–getting prior approval for absences. After all, plaintiff’s job required him to be present. He answered calls from defendant’s members so his physical presence was a key part of the job. And the record shows that defendant did everything from not counting certain unexcused absences against plaintiff’s attendance record to meeting with plaintiff to try to get various appointments approved in advance.

Eventually, defendant had enough. Plaintiff kept taking unexcused absences and, according to defendant, plaintiff did not raise any disability as a defense to the progressive discipline imposed. Under defendant’s policy, plaintiff received various penalties prior to his termination. The Court finds that plaintiff’s termination was not because of any disability he may have; rather, he was fired because he did not utilize the proper procedures to get his absences excused or take a leave to account for his health problems. Plaintiff was not entitled to **6 simply not show up for work and not provide medical documentation of a disability that would require work restrictions. [Emphasis added.]

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