NYU Sued for Discrimination, Breach of Contract

NYU is being sued by one of its former doctors who claims he was discriminated against based on his disability, and that the school did nothing to accommodate his condition. He also alleges they breached his employment contract in firing him for taking a medical leave.

Dr. George Abdelsayad began working for the medical school as section chief of the gastroenterology unit in September 2016, according to the complaint.  He claims that in March 2017 he began experiencing pain in both arms and muscle weakness in his left arm, which was caused by nerve root compression from his spinal cord.  That condition also caused him to experience pain when he walked or stood for long periods of time.

Abdelsayad claims he was advised by the medical school to seek treatment with one of its doctors, who told him he would need an operation to correct the condition.  Surgery to decompress the spinal cord and the affected nerve roots to alleviate the pain was conducted, according to the complaint.  

The surgery failed to correct the condition and Abdelsayad continued to experience pain and weakness, according to the complaint.  He sought a second opinion and was told to undergo aggressive physical therapy, then be reevaluated before returning to work, thus requiring an extended leave of absence.

In August 2017 Abdelsayad informed the human resources department that he would be seeing his doctor the next month, at which time he would know when he could return to work, according to the complaint.  

After consulting with his doctor in September, 2017, he informed the school that he was immediately able to return to work with some minor accommodations; he followed up with an email containing those accommodations a few days later.  They included general restrictions on time spent on his feet, and required breaks.

The school informed Abdelsayad On October 9, 2017 that they would not be able meet his requested accommodations; they fired him on October 17, according to the complaint.

Abdelsayad claims that all his requested accommodations were reasonable yet the school never “engage[d] in an interactive process with [him] to see whether there was any way that [they] could be met.” Instead, the school “flatly denied his requests even though the requests were reasonable and would not cause an undue hardship” to the school, according to the complaint.

In addition to suing for discrimination and failure to accommodate, Abdelsayad sues the school for breach of contract.  His employment contract specifically provides that he can only be terminated for disability, “after engagement in the interactive process and consideration of reasonable accommodation…,” the complaint states.

Abdelsayad is represented by Lauren Goldberg of New York who filed the case in the Southern District of New York.

Image Source: _molins (Flickr)