Matter of Idella Abram v New York State Division of Human Rights, City of Buffalo and Buffalo State Police Department

Petitioner brought about this Article 78 proceeding to annul a determination of the New York State Division of Human Rights (Division) which ruled that she failed to establish that respondents discriminated against her based on a disability or retaliated against her based on her filing of a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Petitioner was a 19 year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department (BPD) with a long-standing animosity between her and her supervisor Lieutenant Guy Zagara. In May 2003, petitioner filed a complaint with the EEOC against Zagara who learned of the complaint later that summer. In September 2003, petitioner was injured when she hit her knee with the door of a patrole vehicle. She applied for injured on duty status (IOD) but was denied. Petitioner was allegedly reinjured in November while subduing an unruly man. Again, petitioner filed for IOD status and was denied, mainly due to a report by Zagara asserting that he was at the scene of the accident and did not see petitioner engaging in any action that could have resulted in an injury.

Petitioner then filed a complaint with the Division. After a hearing the Administrative Law Judge determined that the petitioner failed to prove a prima facie case of either discrimination or retaliation and therefore dismissed the complaint. The Division adopted this decision and the petitioner then filed this Article 78 appeal.

Review of an administrative decision is limited to consideration of whether the determination was supported by substantial evidence. The Court felt that contrary to petitioner’s contentions, the determination was supported by substantial evidence and must be upheld. While the petitioner established that she was disabled, she failed to meet the burden of proof that she could perform the essential functions of her job with reasonable accommodation and the employer is not obligated to create a new light-duty position for a disabled employee. In respect to the retaliation claims, since several months passed between the filing of her EEOC complaint and the denial of her IOD status applications, the Court felt no causal connection could be established.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court confirmed the determination, without costs, and dismissed the petition.

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