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New York City Employers Must Now Engage In A “Cooperative Dialogue” For Accommodation Requests

Published by and on October 22, 2018

The new requirements take effect on October 15, 2018, and impose requirements surrounding the “cooperative dialogue” employers must engage in when an accommodation is requested.

These changes are just some of the amendments New York City has recently made to its human rights laws that impose additional requirements on employers. (See our previous post here on amendments to the NYC human rights law concerning sexual harassment.) Under the amendments concerning the cooperative dialogue for accommodations, employers must engage in a cooperative dialogue within a reasonable time with a person who has requested an accommodation (or who the employer has notice may require accommodation) for:

  1. religious needs,
  2. a disability,
  3. pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition, or;
  4. needs relating to the person’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking.

The “cooperative dialogue” is defined as the process by which a covered entity and a person who is entitled, or may be entitled, to an accommodation, engage in good faith in a written or oral dialogue concerning:

  1. the person’s accommodation needs;
  2. potential accommodations that may address the person’s accommodation needs, including alternatives to a requested accommodation; and
  3. the difficulties that such potential accommodations may pose for the covered entity.

Places of public accommodation should also be aware that these obligations extend to customers as well. Thus, places of public accommodation must engage in the cooperative dialogue with a person who has requested, or may need, an accommodation related to a disability.

Once the entity reaches a final determination at the end of the cooperative dialogue, the entity must provide the individual with a written final determination identifying any accommodation that has been granted or denied. A determination that there is no reasonable accommodation that would allow the person to satisfy the essential requisites of a job or enjoy the rights in question can only be made after engaging in, or attempting to engage in, the cooperative dialogue.

The NYC Commission on Human Rights recently released guidance on discrimination the basis of disability, which can be accessed here. The guidance also provides additional insight on the cooperative dialogue process.

Welter Insight

Employers should already be engaging in the “interactive process” with those who request accommodations for their disabilities, as is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now, New York City employers and places of public accommodation have additional requirements relating to the similar process of engaging in a cooperative dialogue for accommodation requests, and not doing so can subject to them to liability under the NYC law. NYC entities should therefore review their procedures for handling and responding to accommodation requests, or implement such procedures if none exist.

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