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New York City Law Requires “Interactive Dialog” Between Employers and Employees Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

Under the federal, New York State, and New York City human rights laws, employees may be entitled to request “reasonable accommodations” from their employers relating to their religious beliefs, disability, pregnancy, or childbirth. The New York City Human Rights Law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation of an employee’s needs arising from the employee’s being a victim of domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking.

Effective October 15, 2018, the New York City Human Rights Law imposes new procedural requirements for employers when an employee requests a reasonable accommodation. The law now requires employers to “engage in good faith in written or oral dialog” with the employee to discuss the requested accommodation. If the employer cannot satisfy the employee’s requested accommodation, the employer may not deny the accommodation. Instead, the employer must discuss the difficulties that accommodation would create with the employer and suggest possible alternatives. Good-faith discussion must continue until the employer decides whether the requested reasonable accommodation will be granted or denied.

At the conclusion of the dialog, the employer must report in writing to the employee on whether the accommodation is being granted or denied. An employer’s failure to engage in the required cooperative dialog, or to provide a written determination at the end of the dialog, will be a violation of the New York City Human Rights Law, separate from the merits of the underlying reasonable accommodation request.