Sunday, June 16, 2019
MARY RICHTER VS. OAKLAND BOARD OF EDUCATION, ET AL. (L-0742-15, PASSAIC COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) (A-0102-17T2)
MARY RICHTER VS. OAKLAND BOARD OF EDUCATION, ET AL. (L-0742-15, PASSAIC COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) (A-0102-17T2) Plaintiff Mary Richter, a middle school teacher who suffers from diabetes, alleges she fainted while teaching due to low blood sugar levels when she was unable to eat lunch at an earlier class period and suffered significant and permanent injuries. She contends the accident would not have occurred had defendants Oakland Board of Education (the Board) and Gregg Desiderio granted her accommodation request to eat lunch earlier. The motion judge granted defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing Richter's complaint, denied Richter's cross-motion for summary judgment, and denied reconsideration of the dismissal. The judge held that as a matter of law, Richter failed to prove a prima facie case of failure to accommodate her disability because she did not establish an adverse employment action. Thus, her bodily injury claim, which is the subject of the Board's cross-appeal, was denied as moot. Under the circumstances of this case, the court reverses the motion judge's grant of summary judgment dismissing Richter's complaint. Based on our consideration of Supreme Court decisions in Victor v. State, 203 N.J. 383 (2008) and Royster v. N.J. State Police, 227 N.J. 482 (2017), the court concludes that Richter need not demonstrate an adverse employment action to establish a prima facie case of a failure to accommodate claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49. Because there were genuine issues of material facts concerning whether Richter was provided an accommodation and whether the accommodation was adequate, which must be determined at a trial, the court affirms the denial of Richter's cross-motion for summary judgment. As to the Board's cross-appeal, the court concludes the Workers' Compensation Act, N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 to -146, does not bar Richter's bodily injury claim, but should she prevail at trial, the Board should receive a credit based on the amount of medical bills and lost wages it paid in her workers' compensation claim in accordance with N.J.S.A. 34:15-40..