Sumitomo Mitsui Lawyer Gets Disability Bias Trial Under NYC Law

Sept. 28, 2021, 6:11 PM

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. must face trial on a former assistant general counsel’s claim under New York City law that he was fired because of his plantar fasciitis, a federal judge ruled.

Ted Amley’s allegations fit the “far broader” definition of a “disability” under the New York City Human Rights Law—than New York state law—that has emerged in the wake of the New York City Council’s 2005 Local Civil Rights Restoration Act, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said.

According to Amley, he gave his supervisors a “layperson’s description of the medical issue,” stating he had a foot problem that left him unable to walk without pain, the court said. That was enough to make the bank aware of his disability, the court said Monday.

Amley’s termination was an adverse action, and his testimony that a supervisor mentioned Amley’s numerous absences, including for physical therapy, could be enough for a jury to link Amley’s disability to Sumitomo Mitsui’s discharge decision, if just “barely,” Judge Colleen McMahon said.

The judge granted summary judgment to Sumitomo Mitsui on the rest of Amley’s claims, including his allegations under the NYCHRL that his disability also spurred a negative performance review in 2016 and a lowered bonus he received.

There wasn’t any evidence linking those job actions to Amley’s plantar fasciitis, McMahon said.

Amley’s disability discrimination claims under the New York State Human Rights Law failed because his medical condition didn’t meet that law’s stricter definition of disability, the court said. He never told anyone that he had plantar fasciitis, and his layperson’s description of his condition wasn’t enough to make the bank aware of his disability under the NYSHRL, the court said.

His interference claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act were lacking because he never bothered with Sumitomo Mitsui’s policies for seeking such leave, despite receiving them multiple times, McMahon said. Amley thus failed to provide timely notice of his need for FMLA leave, she said.

Amley also failed to show he was denied FMLA leave he was entitled to as he was permitted to leave work for physical therapy appointments two times per week and wasn’t docked pay for the time he missed, the judge said. He also received a paid personal day for working from home instead of at the office during a snowstorm, McMahon said.

He couldn’t have been denied an FMLA benefit because he never actually asked for FMLA leave, she said.

Amley’s FMLA retaliation claims failed for roughly the same reasons, McMahon said.

His failure-to-accommodate and retaliation claims under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL also were lacking, she said.

Paykin Krieg & Adams LLP represents Amley. Proskauer Rose LLP represents Sumitomo Mitsui.

The case is Amley v. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., 2021 BL 365699, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:19-cv-03777, 9/27/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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