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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Can Employers Retaliate Against Workers By Making Them Work In Dangerous Conditions?

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Throughout the past twenty years, our employment discrimination lawyers in Citrus County, Florida have fought for the rights of employment discrimination victims. Through their decades of experience representing employment discrimination victims, our employment discrimination attorneys in Inverness, Florida know that employees who lodge discrimination complaints are often targeted for retaliation. In far too many cases, the employer’s retaliatory actions culminate in an employee’s retaliatory termination. In some cases, employers even punish employees who complain about workplace discrimination by exposing them to dangerous or extreme working conditions. In this article, our employment discrimination lawyers in Citrus County, Florida explain how the decision in McAllister v. Metropolitan Transit Authority, 2013 WL 4519795 (E.D. N.Y. Aug. 26, 2013) shows that employers are prohibited from requiring employees to work in dangerous or extreme working conditions because they complained about discrimination in the workplace.

Retaliation Lawsuit

In that case, a man named McAllister brought a retaliation claim against his former employer, the Long Island Railroad (“LIRR”), pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of disability. The ADA, like other federal employment discrimination laws, contains an anti-retaliation provision. Under the ADA’s anti-retaliation provision, employers are forbidden from retaliating against employee because they complained of perceived disability discrimination in the workplace. McAllister contends that LIRR retaliated against him in violation of the ADA by requiring him to work in dangerous conditions.

In 1992, McAllister began his employment with the LIRR as a station appearance maintainer. In 2005, he was promoted to a position as crew dispatcher. In March 2011, McAllister suffered a heart attack while on the job and went on medical leave for approximately seven weeks. Prior to his heart attack, he had a good employment record and no disciplinary actions had been taken against him. After his heart attack, however, McAllister alleges that he was subjected to increased scrutiny and discipline.

In March 2011, while McAllister was on medical leave, the LIRR sent him a letter accusing him of sleeping on the job. In response to the letter, McAllister’s wife sent a request to his supervisor, Lamont, that no further notices be sent due to medical orders that McAllister avoid stress in the home. Despite the request, Lamont and the Manager of Transportation informed McAllister that if he did not sign a waiver agreeing to work four days without pay for the sleeping incident, he would be terminated. McAllister signed the waiver.

Exposure To Dangerous Work Conditions

In May 2011, McAllister returned to work. After his return, Lamont accused McAllister of sleeping on the job, dishonesty, and conducting unbecoming an employee. In November 2011, a supervisor told McAllister that Lamont “was out to get him.” Later that month, a disciplinary hearing was held, which resulted in LIRR demoting McAllister to the position of station cleaner.

After McAllister’s demotion, the LIRR refused to medically clear him for work even though his doctors declared him fit for duty. It prevented him from returning to work for seven weeks and compensated him for only approximately eight days during this period. In November 2011, McAllister lodged several internal complaints that he was being discriminated against because of his disability. In February 2012, McAllister filed a disability discrimination complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

After filing a disability discrimination complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, McAllister was reassigned to a position as an usher and transferred to the information booth at Jamaica Station. The air conditioning unit in the booth was inoperable and McAllister complained to the LIRR about the dangerously high temperatures. The LIRR did not fix the air conditioning unit or transfer McAllister to a booth with an operable unit. The high temperatures within the booth exacerbated McAllister’s pre-existing heart condition, causing him to lose consciousness in May 2012. McAllister was unable to return to work for about 2 months.

Retaliatory Dangerous Conditions Prohibited

LITT filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of McAllister’s retaliation claim. In moving for dismissal, the LITT argued that transferring McAllister to a poor work location did not constitute a retaliatory act prohibited by the ADA. In other words, the LITT maintained that it was lawfully permitted to transfer McAllister to the Jamaica Station booth, thereby exposing him to dangerous or extreme work conditions, in retaliation for his disability discrimination complaints. In rejecting the LITT’s argument and denying the LITT’s motion for dismissal, the trial court observed that courts have determined that exposing employees to dangerous or extreme work conditions in retaliation for a discrimination complaint is a form of prohibited retaliation under federal employment discrimination law, including the ADA.

In applying this principle, the trial court determined that transferring McAllister to the Jamaica Station booth, which “resulted in McAllister working in extreme conditions despite his heart condition” due to an inoperable air conditioning unit, was retaliatory act prohibited by the ADA. The trial court also found that McAllister’s allegations established the requisite causal connection between his discrimination complaints and the transfer to the Jamaica Station booth. The trial court pointed out that “within three months” of McAllister’s disability discrimination complaints, McAllister was transferred to the Jamaica Station booth. The close timing between the discrimination complaints and the transfer, the trial court reasoned, was sufficient to plausibly establish that LITT transferred McAllister to the Jamaica Station booth because McAllister complained about disability discrimination.

Citrus County, FL Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our employment discrimination attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have litigated employment discrimination cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If you have experienced workplace discrimination or have questions about your rights as an employment discrimination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employment discrimination lawyers in Citrus County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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