New York Reasonable Accommodation Attorneys
New York State Human Rights Law Reasonable Accommodation
Individuals living with disabilities often face unique challenges when navigating a workplace that is not necessarily built for them, but they are nonetheless expected to be as productive as their able-bodied peers. Simple but important adjustments have the potential to dramatically improve quality of life and performance, but employers may resist making “special exceptions.”
Under both the federal American with Disabilities Act and New York State Human Rights Law, employers are not allowed to discriminate against disabled employees. In practice, this means that employers are often required to provide reasonable accommodations that will assist these employees in performing their job responsibilities.
Our New York reasonable accommodation lawyers at Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP can ensure your employer honors their obligations and institutes the necessary modifications that will help you do your job. Our team has over 100 years of legal experience in defending human and employee rights in New York. We are intimately familiar with the reasonable accommodations process and can provide the legal support that you need when working with an uncooperative employer.
Who Can Request Reasonable Accommodations in New York?
In New York, there are 4 categories of employees that are entitled to request reasonable accommodations under the New York State Human Rights Law. Any employer with 4 or more employees is required to attempt to accommodate workers in these categories.
An employee in New York can request reasonable accommodations if they:
- Live with a disability
- Have sincerely held religious beliefs that interfere with some element of the job
- Are pregnant, have recently given birth, or are managing a related medical condition
- Are the victim of domestic violence, sexual misconduct, or stalking
For purposes of reasonable accommodation, a disability is defined as any physical or mental condition that limits one or more major life activities. The impaired life activity must in some way interfere with the employee’s ability to complete essential job responsibilities.
If a disability or condition is not necessarily obvious, employers have a right to ask for a letter from a medical professional confirming the nature of the condition and any limitations it imposes. The letter should also include any recommended changes that will assist the employee in doing their work.
What Counts as a Reasonable Accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation in the workplace is defined as any adjustment or modification that better enables an employee to complete their essential job responsibilities. This can vary widely depending on the nature of the disability or reason for seeking an accommodation.
Common examples of reasonable accommodations for employees living with disabilities include:
- Working from home or remote work
- Modified or flexible work schedules
- Wheelchair ramps and reorganizations of office layouts
- Accessible parking spaces
- Additional training and resources, including interpreters
- Reliably scheduled breaks
- Adjusted workstations
Reasonable accommodations for employees in other qualifying categories may differ. Employees with certain religious beliefs may request adjustments to a company uniform policy to allow for a religious garment, for example. A woman who has recently given birth may need a designated space to breastfeed. Victims of stalking or domestic violence may need to be temporarily situated out of public-facing areas to avoid unwanted encounters.
An employer can only deny a requested reasonable accommodation if they can demonstrate that the adjustment will represent an “undue hardship.” This is often difficult to prove, and the employer is required to provide compelling evidence that the requested accommodation constitutes undue hardship.
How the Reasonable Accommodations Process Works in New York
When you believe that you need a reasonable accommodation in order to perform your essential job responsibilities, you can alert your employer at any time verbally or in writing. The request should include the specific reasonable accommodation that you are seeking. You do not necessarily need to go into detail about why you need the accommodation: You can simply state that you need the reasonable accommodation for a “medical condition,” for example. However, your employer may request more information to aid in their evaluation of the request.
In New York, your employer is required to meaningfully consider the requested accommodation and engage in an “interactive dialogue.” They cannot refuse to consider your requested accommodation or reject it outright.
The interactive dialogue process involves a good faith effort to find a mutually agreeable solution to a requested accommodation. If the employer does not believe the specifically requested accommodation is possible, they must work with you to attempt to identify alternative solutions.
Should you be unable to reach a compromise, your employer is required to provide you with a written letter that explains their inability to provide the requested accommodation. This letter must include the factors that went into their decision and reasons for why the accommodation would represent an undue hardship.
Our New York reasonable accommodation attorneys can ensure all mandated steps of the interactive dialogue process are followed. Should your accommodation request be denied, we can evaluate your employer’s letter and assist you in exploring the next steps.
An employer is under no circumstances permitted to retaliate against you as a result of your requesting a reasonable accommodation. If you are fired in the wake of a reasonable accommodations request, you may have been wrongfully terminated and should seek immediate legal assistance.
What Can I Do If My Employer Rejects My Accommodation Request?
If your employer fails to meaningfully engage with you during the interactive dialogue process or provided insufficient reasons for denying your request, there are other legal remedies that we can help you pursue. Failure to appropriately address requests for reasonable accommodations is a type of discriminatory behavior that can be formally challenged.
At the state level, we can assist you in filing a formal complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. You have 1 year following the rejection of the accommodation to pursue this option.
If your accommodation request involves a disability, we can also help you file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal body that enforces the ADA. Should the EEOC decline to pursue charges against your employer, you may also have the option of filing an independent lawsuit against them.
Our New York reasonable accommodation lawyers at Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP can assist you in exploring all of your options if your request has been improperly rejected. We understand how difficult it can be to work in an environment where your unique needs go unrecognized and are committed to helping you enforce your rights.
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