Court Reverses Agency's Disability Discrimination Determination
Facts: After two resident shareholders in a cooperative housing development in Bayside, N.Y., acquired a dog, in violation of the cooperative's no-dogs policy, the development began eviction proceedings. The residents complained of discrimination, seeking to keep the dog as a reasonable accommodation. They presented evidence from health care providers showing that having a dog in the unit helped ameliorate their symptoms of depression. The New York State Division of Human Rights concluded that the cooperative discriminated against them in the terms, conditions, and privileges of their housing accommodation because of disability. The Human Rights Division directed the cooperative to make reasonable accommodations with respect to their disabilities by withdrawing eviction proceedings against them and allowing them to keep the dog in their unit. The Human Rights Division also awarded compensatory damages of $7,500. The cooperative sought review in court.
Decision: The Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, sided with the cooperative and reversed the determination of the Human Rights Division.
Reasoning: To support a discrimination claim under the New York State Human Rights Law, the court said that residents must show that their disability makes it necessary to keep the dog in order for them to fully use and enjoy the unit. The court found that while the residents provided evidence that the dog helped them with the symptoms of depression, they did not present any medical evidence to show that the dog was actually necessary for them to enjoy the unit.
- Kennedy Street Quad, Ltd. v. Nathanson, May 2009