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Justices Won’t Consider Legal Test for Workplace Disability Bias

April 20, 2020, 1:32 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider what threshold workers must meet to prove that their employers discriminated against them on the basis of their disability.

The justices rejected Richard Natofsky’s challenge to a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decision that threw out his lawsuit alleging the New York City government gave him poor evaluations and demoted him due to his hearing impairment. Natofsky failed to show that those adverse employment actions wouldn’t have taken place but for his disability, the appeals court said.

The court handed down a pair of decisions this year applying that same but-for causation standard to workers trying to prove race discrimination under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and win remedies like back pay and reinstatement for age bias in the federal sector.

Natofsky, the former director of human resources and budget for the New York City Department of Investigations, sued the city under the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits disability bias in the federal government and programs receiving federal aid. That law uses the same causation standard as the Americans with Disabilities Act section that broadly bars discrimination in employment.

In his petition, Natofsky argued that the court should overturn the Second Circuit and rule that he must show that his disability was one motive the city had for taking adverse actions against him.

The case is Natofsky vs. City of New York, U.S., No. 19-732, cert. denied 4/20/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Iafolla in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at; Karl Hardy at