Two New Hyde Park sisters who said they were denied flu shots at the Target pharmacy in Hicksville because they use wheelchairs have filed complaints with the state division of human rights against Target alleging discrimination.
Laura Chamaidan, 32, and Lisa Panzica, 34, who both suffer from spinal muscular atrophy, said a Target pharmacist in October hedged on administering the shots because they are disabled.
In separate but similar complaints filed on Feb. 24, Chamaidan and Panzica said each was "subjected to great pain, embarrassment and humiliation" by pharmacist Leena Mathew, who allegedly told them that the flu shots required much paperwork, that their Medicare might not cover the vaccine and that they must sit in a specific chair rather than their wheelchairs to receive the flu shots.
"They [Target] have signs outside that say, 'Flu shots here,' but it's almost as if they're saying, 'If you're in a wheelchair, they're not available to you,' " the sisters' attorney Lenard Leeds, of Carle Place, said Monday.
The complaints allege that Mathew showed the sisters to a hallway with a privacy screen where shots are administered but then "acted as though she was unable to move the screen" to make room for their wheelchairs "and stood and stared" at the sisters.
At one point, Mathew allegedly asked the sisters, "Can you walk?"
Mathew ultimately told Chamaidan and Panzica using the specific chair "is our policy" and walked away from them, according to the complaints.
Target officials said Monday in a statement: "If a guest is unable to be seated in the designated area for flu vaccinations, we are happy to accommodate their request by offering a suitable alternative location, which was done in this case. . . . The guests declined the accommodation."
Chamaidan and Panzica are seeking monetary and punitive damages, said Leeds, adding he was not aware that Target has offered an alternative location.
"Both woman are really, really upset. One of them is seeing a therapist" afterward, he said. "They want an injunction so they [Target] can't continue this conduct."
Chamaidan and Panzica were doubly traumatized, their attorneys said, because Chamaidan's 4-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son witnessed the alleged incident. The sisters "were treated like outcasts," Leeds said.