Law360 (December 7, 2020, 6:18 PM EST) -- A radiologist who was allegedly threatened and ousted after he requested remote work accommodations during the pandemic due to his autoimmune disorder sued his boss and the New York City public hospital system Monday, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and state law.
Richard Heiden claimed that his boss, radiology department chair Alan Kantor, wouldn't let him work from home even though his ulcerative colitis placed him at greater risk for COVID-19 complications and other hospitals were allowing radiologists to work remotely.
"Defendants never considered Dr. Heiden's request," the complaint said. "Dr. Kantor presented Dr. Heiden with a Hobson's choice: he could either resign or Dr. Kantor would fire him for 'cause' and report him to professional licensing authorities, thus effectively ending Dr. Heiden's long career."
Heiden, who has about 30 years of experience, joined New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. and the Physician Affiliate Group of New York PC at a Coney Island hospital in 2012, according to the complaint. After getting "excellent" ratings there, Heiden moved to the Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx in October 2019.
On March 23, as COVID-19 battered New York City, Heiden sent a request for accommodations to Kantor. Heiden could perform all his normal duties from home, save one procedure, he said. Heiden also offered to pay for his own remote work setup, according to the complaint.
Kantor said he forwarded the request to the hospital's human resources department, but Heiden said the department never reached out to him.
The day after Heiden requested accommodations, Kantor gave him a poor six-month evaluation and said he gave inaccurate diagnoses, according to the complaint. But Heiden hadn't yet worked at the Lincoln Hospital for six months.
"Any suggestion that Dr. Heiden lacked sufficient expertise was plainly bogus," he alleged. "Dr. Kantor failed to include a single instance of any alleged inaccuracy … making it impossible for Dr. Heiden to respond to the sham criticism."
When Kantor provided a list of errors after Heiden requested it, the alleged inaccuracies weren't actually mistakes at all, according to the complaint.
On March 26, Kantor "demanded resignation" from Heiden and threatened to have staff testify against Heiden if he went to court, Heiden alleged. He resigned April 2, according to the complaint.
"Defendants' alleged actions in this case demonstrate a flagrant disregard for the rights of their immunocompromised employees who are entitled to reasonable accommodations to protect themselves from this deadly coronavirus," Valdi Licul of Wigdor LLP, who represents Heiden, said in a statement. "We are confident that Dr. Heiden's rights will be vindicated in court."
Heiden seeks an injunction against the hospital and monetary, compensatory and punitive damages.
A spokesperson for the hospital system did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.
Heiden is represented by Valdi Licul and Bryan Arbeit of Wigdor LLP.
Counsel information for the hospital system and Kantor was not immediately available Monday.
The case is Heiden v. New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation et al., case no. 1:20-cv-10288, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
--Editing by Haylee Pearl.
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