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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Launched Against Schenectady Habitat for Humanity


SCHENECTADY — A legal battle has been initiated by a former employee of Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County against the nonprofit organization. The plaintiff alleges that his employment was unjustly terminated due to his age and disability.

The lawsuit was filed by the plaintiff, Randall Sparrow, on Feb. 1 in the State Supreme Court in Schenectady County. Sparrow, who previously managed the Schenectady Habitat ReStore, alleges that his termination was a result of the organization’s belief that he was no longer capable of performing the physical tasks required for his position following a work-related injury.

As per the lawsuit, Sparrow, aged 66, sustained a shoulder injury while working at the ReStore shop on Broadway in October 2021. He was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff in February 2022 and underwent surgery in August, necessitating a medical leave.

The lawsuit further alleges that Madelyn Thorne, the then-Executive Director of Habitat, assured Sparrow that he would receive his accrued paid leave during his absence. However, when Sparrow attempted to return to work in September 2022 with a medical sling, he received an email from Thorne, expressing objections to his surgeon’s note and the physical restrictions specified by his doctor.

The email stated that Sparrow could not resume work “until such time as a medical professional with the requisite certifications and expertise clears you to return at full-duty, without restrictions or limitations, and without the use of any assistive devices.”

The lawsuit suggests that the defendants perceived Sparrow as incapacitated due to age bias, despite the fact that his job description did not explicitly require heavy lifting.

Following this, Sparrow filed for state workers compensation. He alleges that his work email account was immediately deactivated after he informed his employer about his intention to file for disability benefits.

In December 2022, Kathy Fernandez assumed the role of Schenectady Habitat’s executive director. The lawsuit states that during a meeting between Fernandez and Sparrow on Dec. 14, 2022, Sparrow informed Fernandez that he was already capable of lifting 10 pounds over his head and was hopeful that his weight restrictions would be reduced at his next appointment on January 26, 2023.

However, Sparrow was terminated on Jan. 4, 2023, with the reason given being his inability to report to work and meet the physical requirements necessary for the store manager’s position.

On Tuesday, Sparrow’s attorney, Margaret McIntyre, stated that the defendants in the lawsuit have not yet been served. “I’m quite confident about the case,” McIntyre said. “It’s a shame. I know it’s a good organization, but I believe my client was wronged and I’m quite confident I can prove it.”

McIntyre did not disclose whether Sparrow has found employment since his termination from Habitat for Humanity in January 2023.

The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.

As of Tuesday, Fernandez has not responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Juniper Li
Juniper Li
Juniper Li, with her roots in documentary filmmaking, brings a unique narrative style to local news reporting. A graduate of NYU’s Journalism program, Ava has a keen eye for stories that capture the essence of community life. Her reporting often highlights local achievements and challenges, drawing on her experience in visual storytelling.
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  1. Agree: Discrimination should never be tolerated, and it’s essential to hold organizations accountable for their actions. Hoping for a fair resolution to this lawsuit.


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