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Supreme Court of New Jersey
September 14, 2020, Argued; June 8, 2021, Decided
A-23 September Term 2019, 083273
JUSTICE LaVECCHIA delivered the opinion of the Court.
This appeal raises two compelling issues for resolution by this Court. Unfortunately, the case arises from a tragic event.
Plaintiff Mary Richter, a longtime diabetic and teacher, experienced a hypoglycemic event in a classroom, which she claims happened because her work schedule prevented her from eating her lunch early enough in the day to maintain proper blood sugar levels. She fainted, hit her head on a science laboratory table, and sustained serious and permanent life-altering injuries.
Although Richter recovered [*13] benefits under the Worker's Compensation Act (WCA), N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 to -146, she pursued through this action a claim under the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49, alleging that her employer failed to accommodate her pre-existing disability. According to Richter, in the months leading up to the incident, she repeatedly asked her school principal to change her schedule of teaching and cafeteria monitoring so she could manage her blood sugar levels by having her lunch earlier in the day, but he failed to accommodate her request.
The first issue we must address is whether Richter is required to establish an adverse employment action -- such as a demotion, termination, or other similarly recognized adverse employment action -- to be able to proceed with an LAD failure-to-accommodate disability claim. According to defendants, an adverse employment action is a required element of a failure-to-accommodate claim and Richter's pleading is fatally deficient for not including that element. We now put to rest that contention and hold that an adverse employment action is not a required element for a failure-to-accommodate claim under the LAD.
The second issue raised by this appeal is whether plaintiff's claim is barred by the "exclusive remedy provision" [*14] of the WCA because she recovered workers' compensation benefits. According to defendants, to the extent Richter's LAD claim includes a demand for damages for bodily injuries or their equivalent, it is barred under N.J.S.A. 34:15-8 unless she proves that defendants engaged in an intentional wrong. For the reasons set forth herein, we conclude that plaintiff's LAD claim based on defendants' alleged failure to accommodate her pre-existing diabetic condition is not barred by the WCA, and we reject the further contention that plaintiff must filter her claim through the required showings of the "intentional wrong exception."
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
2021 N.J. LEXIS 548 *; 2021 WL 2324982
Mary Richter, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Oakland Board of Education, Defendant-Appellant, and Gregg Desiderio, individually and as Principal of the Valley Middle School, Defendant-Appellant.
Prior History: On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 459 N.J. Super. 400, 211 A.3d 1226 (App. Div. 2019) [*1] .
disability, adverse employment action, accommodate, failure-to-accommodate, reasonable accommodation, remedies, lunch, exclusive remedy provision, cafeteria, workers' compensation, benefits, damages, circumstances, injuries, cases, defendants', bodily injury claim, adverse employment, punitive damages, summary judgment, prima facie, workplace, diabetes, purposes, marking, courts, eat, pre-existing, disability discrimination, common law remedy
Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Actionable Discrimination, Business & Corporate Compliance, Disability Discrimination, Reasonable Accommodations, Undue Hardship, Scope & Definitions, Qualified Individuals With Disabilities, Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Governments, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Accommodation, Reasonable Accommodations, Retaliation, Elements, Adverse Employment Actions, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Exclusivity, Exceptions, Coverage, Actions Against Employers, Intentional Misconduct, Legislation, Interpretation, Antitrust & Trade Law, Consumer Protection, Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices, State Regulation, Torts, Products Liability, Theories of Liability, Statutory Remedies & Rights, Remedies Under Other Laws, General Overview, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Employees & Employers, Defenses, Exclusivity Provisions, Interactive Process, Third Party Actions, Third Party Liability