A federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned a lower court and reinstated a discrimination lawsuit filed by a deaf city worker who said she had inadequate equipment to accommodate her disability.
Nicole Perkins, who communicates primarily using American Sign Language in her job as a case manager at New York City’s Human Resources Administration, requires accommodations to meaningfully fulfill her professional responsibilities, according to the ruling by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Nicole Perkins v. City of New York.
In August 2019, the month after she began working at her job, Perkins made a formal accommodation request to HRA for a monitor or computer with a video camera to be used as a videophone device for her phone calls and access to remote video interpretation. via her phone or tablet for her field visits, the ruling said.
While the city provided some equipment, Perkins had difficulty using it because of problems bypassing the city̵7;s firewall, the ruling said. The HRA did not respond to emails sent by Perkins and the city’s supplier about the issue, it said.
Perkins filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Brooklyn alleging violations under the federal Rehabilitation Act and New York State and NYC laws.
The district court granted the city’s motion to dismiss the federal claims and declined to exercise jurisdiction over the state and New York claims, stating that the complaint “does nothing more than describe an iterative process by which HRA made ongoing reasonable efforts to accommodate the plaintiff.”
The decision was overturned by a unanimous three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal. The ruling said it agreed with Perkins that the city refused “both actually and constructively – to provide her with reasonable accommodations for her disability as required by the Rehabilitation Act.”
Plaintiff attorney Andrew Rozynski, a partner with Eisenberg & Baum LLP in New York, said in a statement: “We are pleased with the circuit judges’ well-reasoned decision.” The city attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that private plaintiffs cannot recover emotional distress damages under the Rehabilitation Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in a case filed by a plaintiff who is deaf and legally blind and communicates primarily through American Sign . Language.