Manderson v. New York City Department of Education
Dayniah Manderson, a tenured English teacher with over 15 years of teaching experience in New York City public schools, uses an electric wheelchair and has been unable to use a restroom at her middle school building in the Bronx for the past 13 years due to the New York City Department of Education (DOE)’s failure to provide a facility that meets her access needs.
The DOE has also repeatedly denied Ms. Manderson other necessary accommodations including an unobstructed and secure evacuation space in the event of an emergency. Despite being placed on notice of these hazards, the safety room is continually used for storage of combustible equipment, meaning Ms. Manderson cannot navigate her wheelchair to the window and be safely evacuated from the building, placing herself and other students and staff at risk during an emergency. The DOE also refused Ms. Manderson’s request that her students be allowed to write in online journals so that she can grade them from her home computer because she is unable to physically carry 75 journals home from work.
For years, the DOE has disregarded Ms. Manderson’s multiple requests for a reasonable accommodation to provide her with an accessible restroom, forcing her to abstain from restroom usage during workdays that can exceed 12 hours, to limit her consumption of fluids and food at work, and to avoid taking prescription medications that require drinking water. Her health is already vulnerable due to her disability and doctors have repeatedly warned her that this practice further compromises her health.
On May 12, 2020, DRA filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the DOE. The Charge challenges the DOE’s longstanding failure to provide its employees with legally required reasonable accommodations, including an accessible restroom or a fully accessible designated evacuation point in the event of an emergency.
On March 10, 2021, DRA filed a federal lawsuit against the DOE, challenging their ongoing failure to provide Ms. Manderson with necessary and reasonable accommodations as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York City Human Rights Law.
30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, fewer than 25% of DOE schools are fully accessible due to the widespread presence of architectural barriers. This prevalent inaccessibility harms not only teachers and staff, but also students, families, and the general public who visit DOE’s buildings throughout New York City for education, entertainment, meetings, and voting. Due to these widespread barriers, despite her strong credentials, including selection to the DOE’s selective Principal’s Pool for aspiring school leaders, Ms. Manderson is significantly more limited in her ability to obtain a school leadership position at schools throughout the City.
DRA’s goal in bringing these claims is to ensure the DOE provides accessible and safe restrooms and barrier-free emergency evacuation points in school buildings throughout the city, within the parameters of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York City Human Rights Law.
On November 30, 2021, the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York approved an offer of judgment, which will result in the DOE providing desperately needed reasonable accommodations to Ms. Manderson.
Per the court-sanctioned judgment, the DOE will:
- Provide seat risers enabling Ms. Manderson to use the restroom safely at work;
- Commit to maintaining and promptly repairing the restroom’s automatic door opener;
- Commit to ensuring that Ms. Manderson has access to an unobstructed and secure evacuation space in the event of an emergency, and to training DOE staff regarding maintaining this clear path of travel;
- Allow Ms. Manderson’s students to write in online journals so that she does not have to physically carry up to 90 journals home from work.
- December 1, 2021: Federal Court Approves Settlement Providing Accessible Restroom and Other Accommodations to NYC Educator
- March 10, 2021: Federal Lawsuit Challenges NYC Department of Education’s Failure to Provide Accessible Restrooms and Other Accommodations for Public School Teacher
- May 12, 2020: New York City’s Department of Education Fails to Provide Accessible Restrooms in Public School Buildings