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Boston Hit With Covid ADA Accommodation Suit by Teachers Union

Feb. 7, 2022, 4:22 PM

Boston Public Schools system routinely ignores or otherwise denies disability-based accommodation requests by teachers, school nurses, psychologists, and other employees with underlying health conditions that place them at greater Covid-19 risk, the workers’ union alleges in a new federal lawsuit.

Its members that have been harmed by the bias include a teacher with a high-risk pregnancy, a 57-year-old paraprofessional with severe asthma, and a physical education teacher with a genetic heart defect, the Boston Teachers Union said.

Many of the accommodation requests that union members made were in response to Boston Public Schools asking its “employees to return to work in-person,” according to the suit. The case was filed Sunday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Some accommodation requests were ignored for months, the suit said.

In other instances, union members “were abruptly ordered into work without any substantive discussions about their accommodation requests,” while other accommodation requests were outright denied, the union said.

Other employees were discouraged from seeking accommodations, while still others got conflicting information about their accommodation requests, the union said.

All the requests were for conditions that put the workers at high risk of developing serious complications or dying if they contracted Covid-19, the suit said. The requests were all lodged with Boston Public Schools’ Office of Equity, the suit said.

The office has a history of failing to act on, delaying, discouraging, and providing conflicting or confusing information and guidance to union members, the suit said.

The suit also alleges that some union members experienced adverse employment consequences as a result of the bias, including an employee who retired and another forced to use accrued personal leave to cover the time he missed from work before he could be fully vaccinated.

Causes of Action: Americans with Disabilities Act; Massachusetts General Laws.

Relief: Compensatory damages, including for back pay, front pay, and emotional distress; punitive or liquidated damages; injunctive, declaratory, and other equitable relief; pre- and post-judgment interest; attorneys’ fees and costs.

Response: Boston Public Schools didn’t immediately respond Monday to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

Attorneys: Landman Akashian & Macklow LLP represents the union.

The case is Boston Teachers Union v. Boston Pub. Sch., D. Mass., No. 1:22-cv-10196, complaint filed 2/6/22.

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; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com