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Friday, April 15, 2011

Denying employee sick leave bank benefits results in charges of unlawful discrimination

Denying employee sick leave bank benefits results in charges of unlawful discrimination
Cheektowaga CSD v Graziadei, 267 AD2d 985, motion for leave to appeal denied, 95 NY2d 756

A sick leave bank was created by the Cheektowaga Central School District as required by the collective bargaining agreement between district and the Teachers’ Association. Under the terms of the agreement, sick leave bank time was available only to employees incapacitated by severe sickness or injury.

Kathryn A. O. Graziadei, a guidance counselor, had used up all of her sick leave credits after being absent for four weeks and two days following the birth of her child.

Graziadei requested approval to draw three days of sick leave from the sick leave bank. Her request was disapproved by the district because it found that Graziadei did not demonstrate that she was incapacitated by a severe sickness or injury.

Graziadei filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights alleging that the district had unlawfully discriminated against her because of her gender and a pregnancy-related disability. The district appealed the Division’s ruling that it had unlawfully discriminated against Graziadei.

In reviewing the district’s appeal, the Appellate Division found that Graziadei was entitled to take advantage of the sick leave bank to the same extent as employees who are incapacitated by a medical condition other than pregnancy and recovery from childbirth.

According to the decision, Graziadei failed to present any proof that she was incapacitated by severe sickness or injury, or that her request for leave bank time was treated in a manner less liberal than those applications from employees with conditions unrelated to pregnancy and recovery from childbirth. This omission proved fatal to the Division’s determination.

The Appellate Division annulled the Division’s determination that the district had unlawfully discriminated against Graziadei on the basis of sex and a pregnancy-related disability, holding that the Division’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence.
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