New Jersey’s Supreme Court has announced that it will consider the case of Mary Richter, a middle school science teacher. Ms. Richter filed a lawsuit against her employer, the Oakland Board of Education, under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination alleging disability discrimination.
The facts of this case began in 2012, when Ms. Richter received her schedule for the year. Ms. Richter suffers from Diabetes. She received a schedule for the 2012-13 school year that required her to eat her lunch during the last lunch period. She immediately explained to her school’s principal that her medical condition required an accommodation that would allow her to eat earlier.
Over the years that followed, Ms. Richter’s schedule constantly shifted between periods, often requiring her to take glucose tablets in order to maintain her blood sugar levels. Each time she was scheduled for a later period, she requested the same accommodation of an earlier period. Sometimes she received a formal response, sometimes her request was ignored, and sometimes she was instructed to do what she needed to do for her health without any formal documentation or instruction.
As a result of the lack of accommodation for her medical needs, Ms. Richter continued to delay the time that she ate and eventually suffered a seizure at school in front of her students. During this seizure, she struck her head and face on a lab table. As a result, she was transported to the emergency room via ambulance. She was left without a sense of smell and suffered dental and facial trauma, vertigo, dizziness, post-concussion syndrome, and other negative health effects.
Ms. Richter filed suit against the school district alleging disability discrimination, but her case was denied a hearing because Ms. Richter could not make a showing that she suffered an adverse effect on her employment. The school district argued that because she was not disciplined, demoted, suspended, terminated, or subject to a hostile work environment, her claim was legally meritless. The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to review the case to determine whether employees can allege disability discrimination in the absence of a tangible adverse employment action.
If the court agrees with Ms. Richter’s position, it will be a groundbreaking decision for employees who have suffered adverse health effects due to disability discrimination without having suffered adverse employment effects. As we await the Court’s review, which is expected to occur in 2020, we continue to act on behalf of employees who believe they have suffered damages at the hands of their employers.
If your employer is not accommodating your disability or taking other actions against you due to your disability, Schorr & Associates may be able to help. For more information or guidance on a situation that is affecting or has affected you, contact us today for a free initial consultation