Manderson v. New York City Department of Education
On May 12, 2020, DRA filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the largest public school district in the nation, the New York City Department of Education (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.
Dayniah Manderson, a middle-school English teacher with over 15 years of teaching experience with the New York City DOE, uses an electric wheelchair and has been unable to use a restroom at her middle school building in the Bronx for the past eight years, due to the DOE’s failure to provide an ADA-compliant facility.
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, and to limit her consumption of fluids and food at work and 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.
Ms. Manderson also face barriers accessing the Fire Safety Room, the designated evacuation point in the event of an emergency for those with temporary and permanent mobility disabilities. Despite being placed on notice of this hazard, the safety room is continually used for storage, which places students and staff at risk during an emergency.
Nearly 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 access issues, despite 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.