324 F.3d 102 (2nd Cir. 2003), 01-7967, Felix v. New York City Transit Auth.

Docket Nº:01-7967
Citation:324 F.3d 102
Party Name:DENISE FELIX, Plaintiff, NAOMI FELIX and IRENE COOPER as administrators of the estate of Denise Felix, 1314 Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:March 31, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Page 102

324 F.3d 102 (2nd Cir. 2003)

DENISE FELIX, Plaintiff,

NAOMI FELIX and IRENE COOPER as administrators of the estate of Denise Felix, 1314 Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 01-7967

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

March 31, 2003

Argued May 21, 2002

Page 103

Appeal from the judgment and order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Shira A. Scheindlin, District Judge) granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s Americans with Disabilities Act claim. Affirmed.

COUNSEL

LAURA SAGER, Washington Square Legal Services, Inc., (Valerie Hsieh, Raminta Rudys, law students, argued and on the brief, Margo Ferrandino, law student, on the brief,), New York, NY, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

RICHARD SCHOOLMAN, Office of the General Counsel, New York City Transit Authority, Brooklyn, NY, for Defendant-Appellee.

BARBARA L. SLOAN, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (Nicholas M. Inzeo, Acting Deputy General Counsel, Philip B. Sklover, Assistant General Counsel, Vincent J. Blackwood, Assistant General Counsel, on the brief), Washington, DC, for Amicus Curiae.

Before WALKER, Chief Judge, JACOBS and LEVAL, Circuit Judges.

WALKER, Chief Judge:

Denise Felix sued her former employer, the New York City Transit Authority, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging that she was entitled to a position that did not involve working in the subway, which she could not do because of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that was interfering with her ability to sleep, a major life activity. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Shira A. Scheindlin, District Judge) granted summary judgment to the defendant because the major life activity was not causally related to the accommodation requested. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

In 1994, Denise Felix was hired as a “Railroad Clerk” by the New York City Transit Authority (“NYCTA”). In 1996, the NYCTA employed approximately 3,417 Railroad Clerks. The overwhelming majority of Railroad Clerks work in token booths in subway stations, where they sell tokens, commuter passes, and fare cards, and provide information to passengers. Approximately 50 Railroad Clerks work in office jobs. The Railroad Clerks assigned to office jobs are deployed to work in token booths a few days a year.

On November 26, 1995, Felix was assigned as an “extra” Railroad Clerk, relieving Railroad Clerks who were on breaks. While en route to relieve the Railroad Clerk on the northbound platform of the Kingston and Throop Station, Felix was informed that the Railroad Clerk on the southbound platform of that station had been killed in a firebombing incident. Felix saw the smoke-filled platform and was stuck inside the train for some time. Felix was traumatized by the realization that she could have been killed and was taken to the Kings County Hospital’s Emergency Room.

Felix reported to the NYCTA’s Medical Assessment Center the next day. She was initially categorized as temporarily medically unable to work. From December 7, 1995 until August 15, 1996, Felix was designated “restricted work, temporary.” Her doctors diagnosed her with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”); her Page 104

condition included feelings of apprehension and anxiety, recurrent problems with insomnia, and an inability to work in the subways. Her doctors specified that she was not to do any subway work, but could do clerical work. At some point not later than August 13, 1996, Felix requested a reassignment to a position that would not require her to work in the subway as an accommodation of her medical problems. On August 15, 1996, her designation was changed to “no work, temporary.” On November 26, 1996, Felix was terminated pursuant to Civil Service Law § 71, which authorizes the termination of a civil service employee who has been unable to return to work for a year. N.Y. Civ. Serv. § 71. After exhausting her administrative remedies and receiving a Right to Sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), Felix commenced this suit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112 et seq. Denise Felix died on July 27, 2000, before the completion of the district court proceedings, due to causes unrelated to the events at issue in this case and the administrators of her estate were substituted as plaintiffs. Because this substitution has no practical effect on the litigation, we adhere to the previous party designations for the sake of convenience.

The NYCTA moved for summary judgment, arguing that (1) her receipt of Social Security disability benefits should estop her from claiming that she was able to work, (2) no reasonable accommodation was available because the ability to work in subways was an essential function of Railroad Clerks, and (3) there was no nexus between the major life activity impaired and the accommodation requested. The district court rejected the first two arguments but granted summary judgment in favor of NYCTA on the basis of its third argument. Felix v. New York City Transit Auth., 154 F.Supp.2d 640, 659 (S.D.N.Y. 2001). We affirm.

DISCUSSION

We review the district court’s grant of summary judgment de novo, resolving all disputed facts in the non-movant’s favor. Tri-State Empl. Servs., Inc. v. Mountbatten Sur. Co., 295 F.3d 256, 260 (2d Cir. 2002).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) protects people with disabilities, defined as individuals with “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(A). Title I of the ADA, which protects individuals with disability within the workplace, prohibits “discriminating” against an employee with a disability “because of the disability of such individual.” 42 U.S.C.§ 12112(a). The statute defines “discriminate” to include “not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability, . . . unless [the employer] can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A).

The NYCTA concedes that Felix has a disability because her insomnia limits the major life activity of sleeping. Although the NYCTA presents additional arguments for why it did not need to grant the requested accommodation, we address only the issue the district court found determinative: Whether there must be a causal link between the specific condition which limits a major life...

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