Ex-Rehab Employee Sues For Discrimination In Federal Court

Federal court for the Eastern District of New York.  Eagle  file photo by Rob Abruzzese.

Federal court for the Eastern District of New York. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese.

By David Brand

An ex-employee of a Long Island substance abuse rehab facility is suing his former employer for disability discrimination — a year after the facility settled an age discrimination suit with another ex-employee.

Nicholas Elgar, a Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor-trainee (CASAC-T), filed a lawsuit against Seafield Center Inc. in Brooklyn Federal Court in January 2018 accusing Seafield of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Elgar, who is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), was allegedly demoted, denied overtime pay and confronted with “unequal terms and conditions” of employment, according to court documents. He was ultimately fired. Elgar named Seafield Outpatient Executive Director Lynn Doris as a defendant in the suit.

Seafield operates seven inpatient and outpatient facilities for people with substance abuse disorders across Long Island. Seafield and Elgar agreed to begin mediation on Jan. 15.

Elgar said he was assigned to a cramped and “chaotic” office with two supply closets, including one that was used to store urine samples at the Seafield Riverhead location, according to the lawsuit.

Elgar shared the office with two other staff members, including one who conducted intake assessments with new clients, according to court documents. Elgar asked to move to an office within an adjacent building where he facilitated group therapy sessions for Seafield patients, but his requests were denied by Doris, who cited seniority as the basis for re-assigning employees. Nevertheless, Elgar alleges that his two co-workers, one a CASAC-T and the other an unlicensed worker who had less seniority than him, were both relocated upon request.

In his petition to the court, Elgar said he was excluded from trainings for new staff members and that he did not receive clinical supervision between his start date in April 2016 through August 2016. The state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) requires a “minimum of weekly clinical supervision meetings by an advanced or master level counselor and at least 2 one-on-one meetings per month.”

Elgar said Doris retaliated against him by reassigning five male staff members to other locations, leaving Elgar as one of the few men in the facility, according to court documents.

As one of the only men in the facility, he was required to monitor urine samples for male patients, who were mandated by employers or courts to attend outpatient treatment, according to court documents. The frequent interruptions affected his work and prevented him from keeping up with his notes, he said in the court filings.

Doris also allegedly began using Elgar’s log-in credentials to write notes on his behalf. Elgar was fired in December 2016.

“Ms. Doris refused every accommodation I requested to accommodate my ADD, then listed the clinical symptoms of ADD, as the justification for firing me,” Elgar wrote to the court.

Elgar is seeking lost wages, unpaid overtime, loss of benefits, compensation for “pain and suffering” and legal fees, according to court filings.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a “right to sue” letter in October 2017. Such letters are required in order to bring a lawsuit citing disability discrimination.

“Seafield Center is an equal opportunity employer which prohibits any and all forms of discrimination in its workplace,” Seafield told the Eagle in a statement. “Seafield Center firmly denies both Ms. Garry’s and Mr. Elgar’s allegations, which we feel are without merit and not based in fact. Settlements are not admissions of liability. As Mr. Elgar’s litigation is pending, we have no further comment at this time.”

Elgar did not respond to request for comment.

In 2017, Seafield settled a lawsuit for age discrimination with another ex-employee named Dolores Garry for $25,000, according to court documents.

“I’m going to settle it because I want Seafield out of my mind. I want it like it never happened before,” Garry said in court, according to the court transcript.