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James P. Tarquin, P.A. Motto
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Disability Harassment Is A Form Of Disability Discrimination Prohibited By The Americans With Disabilities Act

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from discrimination on the basis of disability. Discrimination under the ADA includes not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an individual with a disability. Discrimination under the ADA also includes disability harassment that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile or abusive working environment. Through their extensive experience representing employees who have endured disability discrimination, our Marion County, Florida disability discrimination attorneys have learned that employees are frequently targeted for abusive behavior because of accommodations they require for their disability. A recent decision by the U.S. District Court in Duryea v. MetroCast Cablevision of New Hampshire, LLC, 2017 WL 1450219 (D. N.H. April 21, 2017) is instructive in showing that emplgoyees are protected by the ADA from disability harassment.

Employee Ridiculed & Abused Because Of Disability

In that case, Wands Duryea (Duryea) brought a claim for disability harassment against her former employer, MetroCast Cablevision of New Hampshire, LLC (MetroCast), under the ADA. Duryea was employed by MetroCast as a technical service representative at a call center. Duryea’s job duties included providing phone, email, and chat support to MetroCast customers. Throughout her employment, Duryea suffered from alleged disabilities within the meaning of the ADA, including bilateral tibial tendinitis (a condition that results in severe foot pain, especially when walking), asthma and emphysema, daily back pain, earn pain, vertigo, tinnitus, and loss of hearing. During her employment, Duryea requested various accommodations for her disabilities. Duryea claimed that supervisors and coworkers continuously harassed her because of her disabilities. One co-employee named Fontneau harassed Duryea for being out sick and for using a handicapped parking spot at work. He made comments such as “you don’t look sick to me,” “you don’t look handicapped to me,” and “those spots are for people in wheelchairs, you can walk.” Duryea further claimed that she was harassed about wearing tennis shoes at work. MetroCast’s company policy required all employees to wear “business casual” shoes. Duryea requested permission to wear tennis shoes at work because of her severe foot pain. Although MetroCast granted her request, Duryea alleged that several supervisors continuously abused her for wearing tennis shoes at work.

Because of her disabilities, Duryea also used a scooter or walker at work to alleviate pain caused by walking. Duryea claimed that she was regularly harassed by co-employees and supervisors because of her scooter and walker use. On one occasion, Duryea, who was in a wheelchair at the time, spilled a drink on the floor. Her supervisor told her to clean upon the floor herself. Duryea alleged that she had to crawl out of the wheelchair onto the ground in order to clean up the spill. The supervisor initially refused to allow co-workers to help Duryea clean up the spill. Duryea’s supervisors also required her to keep the walker and scooter away from her desk so that they were not in the walkway even though walking from her desk to the scooter and walker caused her pain.

Duryea also requested a parking spot closer to the employee entrance of the office where she worked. Duryea’s request was initially denied. After Duryea obtained emergency medical care because of intense foot pain she claimed was caused by additional walking at work, MetroCast finally approved Duryea’s accommodation request and provided her with a parking spot near the employee entrance.

MetroCast filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Duryea’s disability harassment claim. In doing so, MetroCast asked the trial court to rule that Duryea’s disability harassment claim was baseless and Duryea was not entitled to a jury trial. The trial court denied MetroCast’s motion for dismissal. The trial court found that the disability based harassment Duryea endured was sufficiently severe or pervasive for a jury to find that she worked in a hostile work environment. Consequently, the trial court ruled that Duryea was entitled to have her disability harassment claim resolved by a jury.

Free Consultation With Ocala Disability Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have extensive experience representing employees who have been subjected to discrimination or harassment because of their disability. If you have been the victim of disability discrimination or harassment, or have questions about being targeted for harassment because of a health condition or disability, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Central Florida disability discrimination attorneys. Our employee rights law firm takes disability discrimination and harassment 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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