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New York Court Explains Reasonable Accommodations in Employment Cases

May 20, 2021

Many people living and working in New York city have disabilities, and they frequently require workplace accommodations to perform the duties of their jobs. Fortunately, under New York City’s Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), disabled individuals have the right to reasonable accommodations. As such, an employer that unjustly denies a request for an accommodation or refuses to discuss accommodations with a disabled worker may be liable for employment discrimination. Recently, a New York court discussed what a plaintiff must establish to demonstrate the failure to provide a reasonable accommodation in a case in which the plaintiff alleged he was terminated in retaliation for requesting medical leave. If you are a victim of discrimination in the workplace due to an actual or perceived disability, you should meet with a skillful New York employment discrimination lawyer to assess your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Illness and Termination

Allegedly, the plaintiff worked as a developer for the defendant, a graphic design company. In February 2020, he became ill and suspected that he contracted COVID-19. He advised the defendant that he could not work for two weeks and requested that the defendant provide him a reasonable accommodation in the form of medical leave. He requested medical leave on subsequent occasions as well, so that he could attend doctor’s appointments, which he alleged constituted subsequent requests for reasonable accommodations.

It is reported that the plaintiff was subsequently terminated. He then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging five counts of discrimination, including the failure to provide a reasonable accommodation and the failure to engage in cooperative dialogue about the request for such accommodations. The defendant then filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.

Failure to Provide a Reasonable Accommodation

The NYCHRL provides that the failure to provide a worker with a reasonable accommodation and retaliating against a person who requests such an accommodation constitutes discrimination. Further, the NYCHRL requires employers to partake in cooperative conversations with employees so that they can come to an agreement regarding reasonable accommodations that are appropriate.

Per the NYCHRL, a reasonable accommodation is one that can be made without causing the employer to suffer undue hardship in the course of conducting its business. An employer that sets forth the defense of undue hardship bears the burden of proving its position. This is a significant burden, as the courts interpret the NYCHRL broadly, finding that no accommodations are categorically excluded from being considered reasonable.

In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff set forth sufficient facts to support a plausible claim that the defendant denied his request for reasonable accommodation and retaliated against him for seeking accommodation. As such, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

Speak to a Capable New York Employment Attorney

People with disabilities have the right to enjoy gainful employment, which includes the right to reasonable accommodations. If your employer denied your request for accommodation or otherwise discriminated against you due to a disability, you should speak with an attorney about your rights. The capable New York employment lawyers of Gerstman Schwartz LLP take pride in helping people harmed by employment discrimination in the pursuit of damages, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us to schedule a conference by using our online form or by calling us at our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170.

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