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Media Alerts - Mary Jo C. v. New York State and Local Retirement System et ano. - Second Circuit
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January 29, 2013
  Mary Jo C. v. New York State and Local Retirement System et ano. - Second Circuit
Headline: Second Circuit Holds that the Americans With Disabilities Act Sometimes Requires Modifications of State Law

Area of Law: Disability Law

Issue(s) Presented: Whether Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act can require, as "reasonable accommodations," modifications of mandatory requirements imposed by state law; and whether Title II applies to employment discrimination.

Brief Summary: The plaintiff, a 57-year-old woman who suffered from mental illness, was allegedly terminated from her job as a librarian due to behavior symptomatic of her disability. Although she might have been eligible for disability retirement benefits under New York State law, her mental illness caused her to miss the filing deadline with the New York State and Local Retirement System ("NYSLRS"), which subsequently rejected her request to waive the deadline, which was imposed by state law. She brought suit under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("Title II") against the New York State and Local Retirement System ("NYSLRS") and the Central Islip Public Library (the "Library"), alleging that the NYSLRS should have accommodated her by waiving the statutory deadline and that the Library had terminated her for discriminatory reasons. The Second Circuit held that her claim against the NYSLRS could go forward, reasoning that the ADA sometimes requires reasonable modifications to state statutes. However, her Title II claim against the Library could not proceed because Title II does not cover employment discrimination claims. To read the full opinion, please go to: http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/de...75f81/2/hilite/


Extended Summary: Mary Jo C., a 57-year-old woman suffering from mental illness since adolescence, was terminated from her position as a librarian at the Central Islip Public Library. Although she might have been eligible for disability retirement benefits under New York State law, her mental illness caused her to miss the filing deadline with the New York State and Local Retirement System ("NYSLRS"), which subsequently rejected her request to waive the deadline. She brought suit under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("Title II") against the New York State and Local Retirement System ("NYSLRS") and the Central Islip Public Library (the "Library"), alleging that the NYSLRS should have accommodated her by waiving the deadline (which was imposed by New York law) and that the Library had terminated her for discriminatory reasons. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed her complaint. As to the NYSLRS, the court held that although Title II required "reasonable accommodations" for disabilities, here the filing deadline stemmed from state law, and requiring a state entity to violate state law would be inherently unreasonable. As to the Library, the court held that Title I of the ADA was the exclusive vehicle for disability-based employment discrimination claims.

The Second Circuit agreed that the plaintiff's employment discrimination claim against the library must fail, but held that her claim against the NYSLRS could go forward. The court rejected the NYSLRS's argument that because the plaintiff had missed the state-imposed deadline, she had missed an "essential eligibility" requirement for purposes of the ADA and that any modification to this requirement would not be reasonable. Such an interpretation, the court explained, would run counter to the ADA's broad purpose of preventing discrimination in public activity. "Were we to adopt such a construction of the ADA, the class of 'rules, policies, or practices' subject to reasonable modification under Title II would be vanishingly small, and nearly all eligibility requirements for the receipt of public services would be non-waivable 'essential' eligibility requirements," explained the court. The court reasoned further that waiving the filing deadline would indeed be a reasonable modification of the New York State law that covered the benefits program. The court thus remanded the case to the district court with instructions to grant plaintiff leave to amend her complaint to add facts supporting her claim that she was disabled.

The court agreed, however, with the district court's judgment that Title II does not apply to Plaintiff's claim against the Library. It found that Title I unambiguously applies to employment discrimination, while Title II covers public services, programs, and activities. The ADA structure demonstrates that Congress did not intend to extend Title II to claims that were already covered in Title I. Here, the plaintiff had made no attempt to sue the Library under Title I.

Panel:Circuit Judges Sack and Raggi; District Judge Swain.

Argument: 5/03/2012

Date of Issued Opinion: 01/29/2013

Docket Number: 11-2215

Decided: Affirmed in Part; Vacated and Remanded in Part

Case Alert Author: Sarah Wegmueller

Counsel:
WILLIAM M. BROOKS, Mental Disability Law Clinic, Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, Central Islip, NY, for Plaintiff-Appellant; CECELIA C. CHANG, Deputy Solicitor General, (Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General, Laura R. Johnson, Assistant Solicitor General, of counsel, on the brief), for Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General of the State of New York, New York, NY, for Defendant-Appellee New York State and Local Retirement System; LAURA L. SHOCKLEY, (William M. Savino, Harris J. Zakarin, on the brief), Rivkin Radler LLP, Uniondale, NY, for Defendant-Appellee Central Islip Public Library; SASHA SAMBERG-CHAMPION, (Jessica Dunsay Silver, on the brief), Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Appellate Section, for Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General, Washington, DC, for Amicus Curiae United States Department of Justice.

Author of Opinion: Judge Sack.

Supervisor: Emily Gold Waldman

Edited: 01/30/2013 at 10:49 AM by Media Alerts Moderator

    Posted By: Emily Waldman @ 01/29/2013 07:18 PM     2nd Circuit  

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