New York City Updates Its Requirements for Reasonable Accommodations in Places of Public Accommodation

On January 19, 2018, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio signed into law an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) requiring employers and operators of public accommodations and housing in New York City to “engage in cooperative dialogue with persons who are or may be entitled to reasonable accommodations” and “provide any person requesting an accommodation who participated in the cooperative dialogue with a written final determination identifying any accommodation granted or denied.” The NYCHRL is generally applicable to employers with 4 or more employees, prohibits unlawful discrimination in employment based on protected characteristics and requires employers to provide certain reasonable accommodations. The law extends coverage to franchisors, franchisees, lessors, lessees, and managing agents of public and housing accommodations.

Cooperative dialogue is defined in the Ordinance as “the process by which a covered entity and a person entitled to an accommodation, or who may be entitled to an accommodation under the law, engage in good faith in a written or oral dialogue concerning the person’s needs.” The cooperative dialogue process applies to all accommodation requests relating to disability, religion, pregnancy or childbirth (including medical conditions), and victims of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking.  According to the Ordinance, the cooperative dialogue requires employers to, in good faith, engage in a written or oral dialogue concerning the following:

  • the person’s accommodation needs;
  • potential accommodations that may address the person’s accommodation needs, including alternatives; and
  • difficulties that such potential accommodations may pose for the employer.

After the cooperative dialogue has taken place, all employers must ensure that they provide any person requesting an accommodation with a final written determination indicating whether any accommodations were granted or denied. Failure to provide written documentation,  even if the accommodation is granted, is considered an unlawful discriminatory practice under the NYSHRL.

Although the amendments do not take effect until October 15, 2018,  employers and other entities covered by this law should swiftly and meticulously review their reasonable accommodation policies to ensure compliance with the law. At minimum, each policy should require a cooperative dialogue  applicable to the categories of accommodations described above and require a written final determination given to the individual requesting the reasonable accommodation.

For more information about how this new bill affects your company or how your company can effectively implement it, please contact John C. Petrella, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Employment Litigation Practice Group, at jpetrella@nullgenovaburns.com, or Dina M. Mastellone, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Human Resources Practice Group, at dmastellone@nullgenovaburns.com, or 973-533-0777.

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