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Stevens v. Rite Aid Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

October 6, 2016, Argued; March 21, 2017, Decided

Docket Nos. 15-277(L), 15-279(Con), 15-3491(xap)

Opinion

 [*226]  JON O. NEWMAN, Circuit Judge:

Allyson N. Ho, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Dallas, TX (John C. Sullivan, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Dallas, TX, Michelle Seldin Silverman, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Princeton, NJ, on the brief), for Appellant-Cross-Appellee Rite Aid Corporation. Janet D. Callahan, Hancock Estabrook, LLP, Syracuse, NY (Daniel B. Berman, Robert C. Whitaker, Robert J. Thorpe, Hancock Estabrook, LLP, Syracuse, NY, on the brief), for Appellee-Cross-Appellant Christopher Stevens. JON O. NEWMAN, Circuit Judge: This appeal and cross-appeal concern a pharmacist who suffers from trypanophobia — fear of needles. The pharmacy where he was employed discharged him because he could not comply with a company policy [**3]  that required pharmacists to administer immunization injections to customers. That action precipitated a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. and similar state law. Rite Aid Corporation ("Rite Aid"), the employer, appeals from the January 27, 2015, judgment entered by the District Court for the Northern District of New  [*227]  York (Thomas J. McAvoy, District Judge) awarding Christopher Stevens, the pharmacist, substantial damages after a jury trial. Rite Aid also appeals and Stevens cross-appeals from the District Court's September 23, 2015, post-trial order. That order dismissed the plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim, granted a new trial unless plaintiff agreed to a remittitur (later accepted), substantially granted plaintiff's claims for interest, and denied defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's wrongful discharge and retaliation claims.

Background

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851 F.3d 224 *; 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4985 **; 33 Am. Disabilities Cas. (BNA) 557; 17 Accom. Disabilities Dec. (CCH) P17-138; 2017 WL 1055566

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS, Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant, v. RITE AID CORPORATION, DBA Rite Aid Pharmacy, AKA Eckerd Corporation, DBA Rite Aid, Defendant-Appellant-Cross-Appellee.

Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Stevens v. Rite Aid Corp., 2017 U.S. LEXIS 6347 (U.S., Oct. 16, 2017)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the January 27, 2015, judgment and appeal and cross-appeal from the September 23, 2015, post-trial order of the District Court for the Northern District of New York (Thomas J. McAvoy, District Judge) in a case brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar state law. The judgment, entered after a jury trial, awarded substantial damages to the plaintiff on his claims of wrongful termination, retaliation, and failure to accommodate. The post-trial order dismissed the plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim, granted a new trial unless plaintiff agreed to a remittitur (later accepted), substantially granted plaintiff's claims for interest, and denied defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's wrongful discharge and retaliation claims.

On the appeal, we reverse the District Court's post-trial denial of Rite Aid's motion for judgment as a matter of law on Stevens' federal and state law wrongful termination and retaliation claims; on the cross-appeal, we affirm the District Court's dismissal of Stevens' failure-to-accommodate claim. We remand for entry of a revised judgment in favor of Rite Aid.

Stevens v. Rite Aid Corp., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127312 (N.D.N.Y., Sept. 23, 2015)

CORE TERMS

immunization, pharmacists, reasonable accommodation, essential function, injections, termination, pharmacy, disability, district court, accommodations, needle, matter of law, appealing, customers, faint, post-trial

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, Labor & Employment Law, Disability Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Qualified Individuals With Disabilities, Business & Corporate Compliance, Discrimination, Reasonable Accommodations, Reasonable Accommodations, Interactive Process