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Konieczny v. New York State Division of Parole

August 17, 2009

KAYSE KONIECZNY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF PAROLE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Kayse Konieczny ("plaintiff") brings this action alleging discrimination in employment on the basis of disability, as well as failure to reasonably accommodate her disability, against her former employer, the New York State Division of Parole (the "Division"), pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §12112 et seq. The Division now moves for summary judgment (Dkt. #13). For the reasons stated below, the Division's motion is granted and the complaint is dismissed.

Factual Background

Plaintiff was employed by the Division as a Keyboard Specialist ("KSB") 1, a typing position which also involved some switchboard work and filing, from September 28, 2000 until January 24, 2005. It is undisputed that due to the nature of operations at the Division office, the office environment was generally noisy, chaotic, and stressful. On occasion while working at the reception desk, plaintiff was subjected to verbal abuse, and even had things thrown at her, by disgruntled parolees. Plaintiff complained to the Department of Labor about the office conditions, and testified that she generally had difficulty maintaining positive relationships with her co-workers. Plaintiff's relationship with one particular co-worker degenerated to the point where plaintiff filed a complaint with the Public Employee Relations Board alleging a lack of union support in dealing with the other employee.

Plaintiff reports that during her employment with the Division, she experienced panic attacks and did not want to go to work. In July of 2003, she sought medical treatment, and was diagnosed with depression and a panic disorder, for which she was prescribed anti-depressant medications. Nonetheless, plaintiff's job performance reviews were consistently satisfactory.

During her employment at the Division, plaintiff states that she periodically interviewed for positions with other state agencies. One of those positions was a KSB 2 position, which was filled in April 2004 with Marilyn Diaz ("Diaz"), a former co-worker of plaintiff's within the Division. As the KSB 2, Diaz was plaintiff's direct supervisor.

On June 23, 2004, plaintiff was hospitalized for a week due to an embolism. She was diagnosed with Factor Five Leiden, a genetic blood disorder characterized by the tendency for blood to clot abnormally. Plaintiff was prescribed anti-clotting medications, and returned to work on August 12, 2004 with restrictions imposed by her physician: working half-days, working no more than five days per week, and lifting no more than ten pounds. It is undisputed that these restrictions were honored by the Division.

On September 10, 2004, plaintiff's physician permitted her to return to work full-time, with the following restrictions: (1) lifting no more than ten pounds; (2) sitting no more than an hour at a time (and then standing and walking for a minute to facilitate blood circulation); and (3) avoiding cuts and bruises. After returning to work, plaintiff made several oral requests for accommodations to Diaz, including a flexible schedule, repairs to bathroom doors (to prevent cuts and bruises), the ability to use gloves when filing (to prevent cuts), a lifting limitation of ten pounds, the ability to receive telephone calls from her physician, a new desk and the ability to stand while at the switchboard. Diaz ultimately granted each of the plaintiff's requests, with the exception of a flexible schedule and bathroom door repairs. Plaintiff was also initially permitted to take time off, making use of compensatory time ("comp time," meaning leave earned through overtime work) and vacation credits earned by other employees and voluntarily donated to plaintiff, although Diaz eventually halted the practice and prohibited employees from donating further time to plaintiff. The parties dispute whether this prohibition was contrary to the provisions of an applicable employment agreement.

After contacting her union representative, an Employee Assistance Program Employee and a Division employee concerning her accommodation rights, plaintiff was advised that blood conditions were generally not considered a disability for reasonable accommodation purposes. Nonetheless, the Division provided plaintiff with a medical records release for so that her requests could be reviewed. Plaintiff did not return the release, or otherwise formally apply for accommodations with the Division.

Shortly after her return to full-time work, plaintiff requested to work overtime, but was instructed that she needed to obtain medical clearance before doing so. Plaintiff obtained the requested permission from her physician, but the parties dispute whether plaintiff was thereafter assigned overtime.

At some point thereafter, Diaz counseled plaintiff on several occasions with respect to performance issues, including attendance, morale, use of break time, use of the telephone and filing procedures. Plaintiff alleges -- and the Division denies -- that these meetings were comprised primarily of discussions relating to plaintiff's medical condition and her various requests for accommodations.

Plaintiff took a sick leave from work from November 30, 2004 through December 13, 2004. Upon her return, she began inquiring about other positions with the State. In January 2005, plaintiff left the Division and accepted a lateral transfer to a position with the New York State Department of Health, with no change in compensation or benefits.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary ...


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