A federal judge has refused to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit by a Suffolk County Community College security guard who says the school barred him from using a cane on the job unless he agreed to take an overnight shift so he would have little interaction with students or other guards.
Eastern District Judge Joseph F. Bianco rejected the college's arguments that it wanted guard Richard Schroeder to work a less visible shift to "give students a better sense of security" and to avoid hurting the morale of other, more agile guards.
Mary Lou Araneo, Suffolk's vice president for institutional advancement, declined to comment, saying the school does not discuss pending lawsuits.
"None of the . . . reasons establish, as a matter of law, that the use of a cane by a security guard during the day eliminates an essential function of his job," Bianco wrote in a ruling this week.
Schroeder, 54, of Coram, who has been at the school since 1979, is suing the school for violating the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.
He was injured on duty in 2001 when a car rolled over his right foot. Upon returning to work, Schroeder asked, on his doctor's recommendation, to use a cane on the job, but the college refused, unless he agreed to switch shifts. He currently works 3 to 11 p.m. - without a cane.
"I'm in a lot of pain and I hold onto the walls to help me walk and stay on balance," Schroeder said in a phone interview Thursday from his post at the school's Sayville extension campus.
His attorney, Edward Yule, said the use of a cane would not prevent Schroeder from doing his job. Security guards are not peace officers, do not carry weapons and have no authority to arrest or detain anyone, he said.
"His job is to make sure you have a parking sticker and to call 911 if he sees something bad happening," Yule said. "It doesn't matter if he has a cane or not. The truth is they really just want to hide him."