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Quadir v. New York State Department of Labor

United States District Court, S.D. New York

August 19, 2014

MOHAMMED QUADIR, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Defendant

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Mohammed Quadir, Plaintiff, Pro se, Bronx, NY.

For New York State Department of Labor, Defendant: Garrett Joseph Coyle, LEAD ATTORNEY, State of New York Office of the Attorney, New York, NY; Michael John Siudzinski, New York State Office of the Attorney General, New York, NY; Susan Anspach, New York State Office of the Attorney General (NYC), New York, NY.

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OPINION AND ORDER

J. PAUL OETKEN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Mohammed Quadir brings this action against his employer, the New York State Department of Labor (the " Department" ). Proceeding pro se, he alleges that the Department failed to make reasonable workplace accommodations for his disability, took adverse employment action against him because of that disability, and retaliated against him for complaining about disability discrimination, all in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, (" ADA" ) 42 U.S.C. § § 12101 et seq., and the New York State and City Human Rights Laws (" NYSHRL" and " NYCHRL," respectively), N.Y. Exec. Law § § 290-97; N.Y. City Admin. Code § 8-101. The Department has moved to dismiss Quadir's Amended Complaint (" Am. Compl." ) and Comprehensive Consolidated Supplemental Pleading for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Quadir has also filed an application for pro bono counsel with this Court. For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part, and Quadir's motion for pro bono counsel is denied without prejudice.

I. Background[1]

Quadir joined the Department as a Labor Services Representative (" LSR" ) in the Department's Bronx office in April 2008. His job chiefly involves conducting interviews with New York unemployment benefit recipients. Since around July 2008, Quadir has also taught workshops on resume writing and other job-market skills to groups of between five and 60 unemployed people in a classroom at the Department office. These workshops last between 30 minutes and four hours.

Not every LSR teaches these workshops. Indeed, of the 18 LSRs at the Bronx office, six have not taught any workshops since at least 2008, and eight teach workshops only about once a month. Quadir is one of two or three LSRs who teach the bulk of the workshops. Teaching is an unenviable task as many of the participants attend only because they are required to do so to receive their unemployment benefits. Many are frustrated and upset at having lost their jobs and some take those feelings out on Department staff. For these reasons, LSRs " try to avoid or get out of" teaching workshops when they can. (Dkt. No. 5-2 at 11).

In late 2010, Quadir went to the doctor complaining of fatigue, headaches, difficulty concentrating, lightheadedness, and dry, tired, and sleepy eyes. The doctor made no diagnosis but referred him to specialists for further examination. On February 2, 2011, Quadir submitted notes to the Department from both a cardiologist and primary care physician excusing him from public speaking and prolonged standing for two months. He asked to be excused from teaching workshops. The Department granted this request and excused him from all workshop teaching responsibilities for three months.

On April 14, 2011, after the first accommodation request expired, Quadir submitted another note from a neurologist that listed Quadir's symptoms and again asked for him to be exempted from work that

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involved prolonged standing. Along with this note, he submitted his own written explanation of his symptoms and a request for the same accommodation: no workshop teaching. The Department responded by asking for more documentation of Quadir's request, and Quadir submitted another note from his neurologist as well as a two-page letter of his own explaining why he felt he could not teach workshops even sitting down.

The Department excused Quadir from teaching any workshops for a second time, through August 2011. In August, Quadir again brought in a note from his neurologist that made no diagnosis but excused him from teaching, this time until December 2011. The Department granted this request for an extension as well.

On December 20, Quadir requested a fourth extension of his accommodation and brought a note from a different doctor, this time a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist had diagnosed him with Major Depressive Disorder and, like the other doctors, asked that Quadir be excused from work involving prolonged standing and physical exertion. An administrator within the Department either ignored or mishandled this request and did not reply to Quadir until January 26, 2012, allowing his previous accommodation period to end. When he did reply, he asked Quadir to fill out another form requesting accommodation. Union intervention led the administrator to withdraw this request and excuse Quadir from teaching workshops while the Department considered the merits of the new request.

On February 14, 2012, the Department denied Quadir's request, claiming for the first time that teaching workshops was an essential function of Quadir's job. As an alternative accommodation, it offered him the use of a " high chair" and lectern while teaching. (Dkt. No. 5-5 at 44). Quadir's immediate supervisor, Noemi Ramos, told him that failure to teach workshops would be considered insubordination. Later notes from Quadir's psychiatrist indicated that Quadir should be excused from all group teaching because of his symptoms, but the Department did not change its decision.

Quadir decided to file a charge with the New York State Division of Human Rights challenging this denial. The Division of Human Rights dismissed the charge in December 2012 and concluded that a " high chair" and lectern would constitute reasonable accommodations. Quadir then filed this action, asking for, among other things, an order ...


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