Eric Dinnocenzo, Esq. Announces that Con Edison Must Reinstate His Client and Pay Damages Along with a $50,000 Fine to New York State

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New York State Division of Human Rights fined Con Edison $50,000 for firing a worker due to unlawful disability discrimination. Con Edison was ordered to reinstate the employee and pay lost wages and emotional distress damages.

In a September 6, 2016 order, the New York State Division of Human Rights in Benjamin v. Consolidated Edison (Case No. 10157991) reinstated a fired Con Edison worker to his former position as an Electrical Technician with a total back pay award of approximately $400,000 and $50,000 for emotional distress. Con Edison was also assessed a civil penalty in the amount of $50,000 payable to the State of New York.

According to the order from Commissioner Helen Diane Foster, Kevin Benjamin, 55, was terminated from Con Edison on December 27, 2011 on the grounds that his tennis elbow in his left arm interfered with his job performance, and Con Edison was unable to provide him with a reasonable accommodation.

After a 6-day trial, the Division of Human Rights concluded in its Final Order that Con Edison had discriminated against Mr. Benjamin based on disability by not performing an individualized assessment of his ability to work. In reaching this result, it observed that Mr. Benjamin’s tennis elbow was a manageable condition and his doctor had cleared him for duty. Further, in the months before his termination, he capably performed his work without missing days, and even logged significant overtime. The Division also determined that the testimony of Mr. Benjamin's supervisor "is not credible and is contradicted by the record."

After Mr. Benjamin, a Navy veteran, was fired he was evicted from his apartment for non-payment of rent and lived in a homeless shelter for veterans. He had earned $126,000 the year before his termination.

Significantly, the Division ordered that Con Edison must cease its human resources program mandating that employees with a disciplinary history are automatically terminated after 3 months if they remain on work restrictions based on a physical impairment. Con Edison supervisors and employees must also undergo discrimination training related to employees with disabilities within 120 days of the order.

Reinstatement awards for a fired employee are rare. The Division of Human Rights ordered that Mr. Benjamin must return to work within 60 days with all accrued benefits.

Mr. Benjamin was represented by Eric Dinnocenzo, Esq. of Manhattan who represents plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases.

"It was very unfortunate that Mr. Benjamin was fired under these circumstances and had such a difficult path afterward," Mr. Dinnocenzo said. "He was always able to perform his job and always wanted to work."

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Eric Dinnocenzo
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