Boston Teachers Union sues district for accommodation during pandemic


Schools

The lawsuit argues that the district failed to provide “reasonable accommodations” for some workers.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Boston Teachers Union is suing Boston Public Schools in federal court for denying what they call “reasonable accommodations” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the lawsuit, the union, which represents about 10,000 teachers and other school staff in the Boston district, says “many” of the requests for accommodations came when staff were asked to return to school for a in-person learning.

The group alleges that some of the requests “were ignored for months” by the District Equity Office. The lawsuit also says some workers were told they had to work without any attempt to accommodate or discuss the request. Others, according to the lawsuit, were discouraged from seeking accommodations or “received conflicting information.” Some requests have been refused outright.

The lawsuit lists a variety of examples without giving the names of the employees. One alleged incident involved a teacher who had a high-risk pregnancy and asked to work from home. The request was for some time ignored “and even discouraged” by the district, the lawsuit says. The employee took unpaid leave from April to May 2021. She returned to work on June 1, 2021, only to be rushed to hospital by ambulance on June 9, 2021, according to the lawsuit.

Another alleged incident involved a 57-year-old paraprofessional, who requested remote work in October 2020 for “severe asthma”. The request was pending for four months and then denied, according to the lawsuit. The employee then made another request for accommodation; that too was denied, according to the suit.

A third alleged example involves a 58-year-old paraprofessional who requested remote work in January 2021 due to diabetes and hypertension. The employee received a response three days before the return to in-person learning was scheduled; his request was also denied, according to the lawsuit. The employee later contracted COVID-19, the suit says, and was out for a month. She returned to work in May 2021 after being fully vaccinated.

“Through this effort, the Boston Teachers Union is taking steps to ensure that Boston public schools fully respect and embrace the rights of educators with disabilities.” the BTU said in a statement to Boston.com.

The district declined to comment citing ongoing litigation.



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