The city’s state-operated school district did not discriminate against a longtime teacher with lupus-related symptoms, upheld a New Jersey Superior Court Appellate panel on Tuesday morning.
The teacher, who was not identified to protect her medical privacy, alleged the school district failed to provide her with reasonable accommodation for disability and subjected her to a hostile work environment, and retaliated against her for requesting accommodation at School 11.
The teacher filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (DCR) in December, 1st, 2010.
She alleged 18 separate incidents from 2000-2010, according to records. In one case, the teacher was assigned to a second floor classroom. She sought accommodation to reassign her self to a first floor classroom. The principal, Paula Santana, assigned her to room 6 on the first floor, but the teacher wanted room 4 to be closer to the restroom.
The principal allegedly denied the request. In an alleged retaliation incident, the teacher asked a security guard to bring her lunch from the basement cafeteria to the classroom. The principal overheard the teacher making the request and told the security guard that was not his job, according to case documents.
The principal also yelled at the teacher during a fire drill in which she allegedly left her class to take the shorter stairs out of the building.
The case was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law in 2011 at the teacher’s request, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. An administrative law judge presided over five days of hearing in 2012 and dismissed the teacher’s complaint in 2013.
In 2014, director Craig T. Sashihara of the Division on Civil Rights issued a final determination affirming the initial ruling. The teacher filed an appeal. The appeal case was heard in April of this year nd two judges upheld Sashihara’s final determination.
“We believe the Court’s ruling is consistent with the record in the case,” said Sashihara. “There was no dispute as to whether the teacher had a disability. But there was insufficient evidence to support her claim that the school district failed to reasonably accommodate her disability. Nor was there sufficient evidence to support her contention that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation for seeking accommodations.”
The teacher has been teaching at the school district since 1998, according case records.