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A campus security guard who was told he could only use his cane on the midnight shift so as to give students “a better sense of security” has a valid claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal judge has ruled. Eastern District Judge Joseph F. Bianco discounted arguments by Suffolk County Community College that the increased daytime visibility of Richard Schroeder, a veteran security guard who was injured on the job and needs a cane to walk pain-free, would lower morale among his colleagues and undermine campus crime deterrence. “[D]efendants did not simply deny plaintiff the use of a cane—they denied him the use of a cane only during his preferred shift,” Judge Bianco wrote in Schroeder v. Suffolk County Community College, 07-CV-2060. In denying the college’s motion for summary judgment, the judge ruled that “none of the aforementioned reasons establish, as a matter of law, that the use of a cane by a security guard during the day eliminates essential functions of his job.” The Eastern District decision will be published June 26. Mr. Schroeder, a security guard at the Selden campus of the college since 1979, was injured in March 2001, after a car rolled over his foot. One of 17 security guards at the college, he returned to work in July of that year. In March 2005, on the advice of his doctor, Mr. Schroeder requested that he be allowed to use a cane while on patrol during his 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift. John Williams, the school’s public safety chief, denied the request because he “felt that the use of a cane by a security officer was inconsistent with the duties and responsibilities of their job,” according to the decision. The guards are not peace officers and do not carry guns, handcuffs or any weapons. Despite submitting “mountains of documents, letters and prescriptions” to show his right foot had sustained crush injuries, Mr. Schroeder claimed that he was told by Laurie Savona, the school’s compliance officer, that he could not use the cane unless he worked the late-night shift or spent more days in a booth. Edward Yule, Mr. Schroeder’s attorney, rejected those options. “[Mr. Schroeder] is not in charge of arresting people. All his job requires is if he sees trouble, call 911, all he needs is his ear, mouth and index finger,” Mr. Yule, of Northport, said. “If he is doing the same work at midnight and can use the cane, it does not make any sense to [deny] him the cane during the daytime.” After Mr. Williams allegedly told him he could not use the cane while on a lunch break in 2006, Mr. Schroeder sued for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12101. Section 12112(a) of the Act provides that no “covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability” and defines discrimination as “not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability.” Here, Mr. Schroeder argued, the request to use the cane was a reasonable accommodation, given the severe pain he suffered on a daily basis that “drives [him] crazy…hurts [him]…[and] prevents a lot of stuff,” according to the decision. Mr. Schroeder also stated that he used a cane at all times when not on duty, but testified that he performs all job-related tasks, including campus patrol, without a cane. The college, represented by Assistant Suffolk County Attorney John R. Petrowski, argued that Mr. Schroeder had failed to show he was disabled. Ms. Savona cited a doctor’s report that “basically said [Mr. Schroeder] was not disabled.” Factual Issues in Dispute Judge Bianco, dismissing that argument, said “[t]he medical documents relied upon by the defendants to support their position do not provide dispositive, uncontroverted proof on that issue.” Noting that the form Ms. Savona cited was part of an “extensive narrative” prepared by Mr. Schroeder’s doctor that detailed the crushing injury, the judge also cited a county report which recommended that Mr. Schroeder be allowed to use a cane, as evidence of a disputed material fact, precluding summary judgment. Disputed factual issues as to Mr. Schroeder’s performance of duties also existed, requiring the case to go forward, the judge held. “[I]t is plausible that allowing plaintiff to use a cane would result in more effective walking and plaintiff’s increased ability to meet any physical demands of the job that depend in part on use of his right foot,” Judge Bianco held. Finally, he wrote, whether “interaction with the College community” is an additional duty of a security guard working the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift is an unresolved factual question, citing to the college’s admission that “the reduced visibility of plaintiff is the basis for their offer to him to work the night shift.” Mr. Yule praised the decision and said he is preparing for trial. Mary Lou Araneo, a vice president of the college, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Suffolk County Attorney Christine Malafi did not return requests for comment. @

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