What Qualifies as an "Adverse Employment Action" Under Disability Discrimination Law?

Disability discrimination occurs whenever an employee is the victim of an “adverse employment action” related to his or her impairment. An adverse action is not limited to cases in which the employee is hired, or even when a job applicant is not hired. If a manager transfers an employee to a lesser assignment as retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability, that would also qualify as an adverse employment action. In some cases, individual supervisors may also be liable under New York State law for such discriminatory acts.

Judge Refuses to Dismiss Lawsuit Against NYPD, Two Officers

On November 1, a federal judge in Brooklyn refused to dismiss a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by a NYPD officer against the City and two of his former supervisors. The plaintiff has worked for the NYPD since 1999. As a result of his work on the day of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the plaintiff said he developed a number of medical impairments, including irritable bowel syndrome and orthostatic hypotension, a condition that causes a sudden decrease in blood pressure when suddenly standing up from a resting or sitting position. The plaintiff also sustained a herniated disk in his back after an on-duty car accident in 2006.

In addition to this impairments, the plaintiff is a recovering alcoholic. After returning to his squad from an NYPD peer assistance program to address his problem, the plaintiff said he was publicly berated by other officers, who posted several “alcohol-related advertisements and cartoons” on his locker. This behavior continued for “several months,” according to the plaintiff.

In July 2014, the NYPD Medical Division changed the plaintiff's status from full to limited duty. This meant he could not “have prisoner contact, go on patrol, or operate a patrol car.” Shortly afterwards, the plaintiff said a colleague advise him that a sergeant in another squad–one of the co-defendants in this case–wanted him transferred to her unit “to f**k with you.” The other co-defendant, the plaintiff's lieutenant, agreed to the transfer, in part because he allegedly viewed the plaintiff as a “sick leave abuser.”

Following his transfer, the plaintiff said he was required to perform duties that went against his medical restrictions, including “assignments as a prisoner cell attendant.” The plaintiff further said his new sergeant cited him for violating the uniform code for wearing orthopedic sneakers, ignoring a medical authorization from his doctor. At this point, the plaintiff filed complaints with the NYPD's equal employment opportunity office and the New York State Department of Human Right. This ultimately led to the plaintiff's lawsuit.

The judge overseeing the case determined that the plaintiff alleged a plausible claim for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its counterparts under state and city law. Among other things, the judge said the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence that he suffered an “adverse employment action” due to his transfer and reassignment. Ultimately, a jury will decide if the plaintiff's claims warrant damages.

Contact a New York Disability Discrimination Lawyer Today

If you have are the target of an adverse employment action, do not continue to suffer in silence. You need to speak with a qualified New York City employment attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team today.