NYC Now Requires a “Cooperative Dialogue” for Reasonable Accommodation Requests

Many employers are aware of there needing to be an “interactive process” with an employee to determine whether a reasonable accommodation can be made to allow an employee to continue performing the essential functions of his/her job that does not impose an undue hardship on the employer. This is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act and New York State Human Rights Law. For employers in New York City, there’s a new standard in town.

Effective October 15, 2018, employers in NYC with four (4) or more employees must now engage in a “cooperative dialogue” with its employees and issue a written determination each time an employee requests a reasonable accommodation. This does not just apply to disability claims. Under the new law, employers must now engage in the “cooperative dialogue” process to assess reasonable accommodations for: (a) disabilities; (b) pregnancy, child birth or related medical conditions; (c) religious needs; and/or (d) victim of domestic violence, sex offenses or stalking. If an employer does not engage in the cooperative dialogue process, it can be held liable for discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law.

A “cooperative dialogue,” for purposes of the law, means that the employer engages in a good faith dialogue with its employee concerning: (1) the employee’s known or potential accommodation needs; (2) accommodations that may address that employee’s needs, including alternatives to the requested accommodation; and (3) the difficulties that such accommodation may pose for the employer. NYC employers must go through the cooperative dialogue process if they knew or should have known about the employee’s need for an accommodation, even where the employee did not request one.

Once an employer completes the cooperative dialogue process and makes a determination about the accommodation request, it must provide a written final determination to the employee stating whether the accommodation has been granted or denied.

As a result of this new law, NYC employers should review and update their policies to comply with the law. For any decision makers in the company, employers should ensure that they are properly trained to engage in the cooperative dialogue and prepare the requisite paperwork in compliance with the statute. Employers with any questions of their obligations under the law should contact the Law Offices of Yale Pollack, P.C. at (516) 634-6340 or ypolllack@yalepollacklaw.com

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