Employees living with disabilities may face unique challenges when navigating a workplace that is not always designed with their needs in mind. Nonetheless, when employers make simple adjustments, they can improve employees’ quality of life and ability to work effectively. Unfortunately, some employers may refuse to make reasonable accommodations for their employees. However, employers are required to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or disability reasonably. The failure to provide reasonable accommodations is illegal under New York state and federal laws.
Fighting for the Rights of New Paltz, New York, Employees
At HKM Employment Attorneys, our reasonable accommodations attorneys understand the federal Americans with Disability Act and the New York state human rights law. These laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees by refusing to provide them with reasonable accommodations so they can perform their job duties. We have extensive experience representing clients seeking reasonable accommodations and can provide the legal support and counsel you need when working with an uncooperative employer. Contact HKM Employment Attorneys to learn how we can advocate for you.
New York Employers Must Make Reasonable Accommodations
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities in many cases. Employers do not have to provide reasonable accommodations when the accommodation would cause an undue hardship. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a reasonable accommodation is a change in the workplace or how things are done that provides an equal employment opportunity to an employee with a disability.
Who Has the Right to Request a Reasonable Accommodation?
Four categories of employees are entitled to request reasonable accommodations from their employers under the New York human rights law. The New York human rights law covers any employer with four or more employees. Accordingly, in New York, the following employees have a right to request reasonable accommodations:
- The employee lives with a disability
- The employee has a sincere religious belief that interferes with some element of their job
- The employee is pregnant has recently given birth, or is managing a related medical condition
- The employee is the victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual misconduct
A disability is defined as any mental or physical condition that limits one or more life activities. The impaired life activity must interfere with the employee’s ability to complete essential job responsibilities in one or more ways. The disability or medical condition does not need to be obvious. Still, an employer can request a medical professional’s letter confirming the condition’s nature and the corresponding limitations. The letter should also include recommended changes to assist the employee in doing their work.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
There are many different types of reasonable accommodations employers can make for employees with disabilities or medical conditions. Some of the most common types of reasonable accommodations include the following:
- Job reassignment or restructuring
- Allowing an employee time to recover
- Modifying work schedules for therapy and doctor’s appointments or allowing telecommuting
- Adjusting the interview, hiring, or recruiting process to accommodate the employee
- Providing necessary readers, equipment, or interpreters
- Making interview or workplace areas wheelchair accessible
- Accessible parking spaces
- Adjusted workstations
- Wheelchair ramps and reorganization of office layouts
- Working from home or remote work
Employers are also required to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious beliefs. Examples of reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs include the following:
- Providing shift substitutions or breaks to allow for private prayer
- Flexible scheduling or leave time to observe religious holidays
- Accommodation for religious garb and grooming practices
- Observance of a religious prohibition against certain items of clothing
- The freedom to abstain from or participate in religious activities that work
Employers Cannot Retaliate Against Employers for Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation
Under New York law, your employer is legally required to meaningfully consider your requested accommodation and engage in an Interactive dialogue. An employer cannot just refuse to discuss your accommodation or quickly reject it. The interactive dialogue process means they have to make a good-faith effort to find a mutually agreed-upon solution. If you cannot reach a compromise, the employer must provide a written letter explaining its inability to provide the requested accommodation, including factors that went into its decision and specific reasons why the accommodation presents an undue hardship.
If your employer refuses to engage with your request meaningfully or wrongly denies your request, you can pursue legal remedies. Failure to appropriately address requests for reasonable accommodations is a form of discriminatory behavior that can be challenged formally by filing a formal complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights.
You have a year after the rejection of your request to pursue filing a complaint. If your accommodation request involves a disability, you may benefit from also filing a complaint with the EEOC. Should the EEOC decline to pursue charges against your employer, you may have the option of pursuing an independent lawsuit.
What if My Employer Rejects My Request?
Employers can only deny a request for reasonable accommodation when they can prove that the accommodation will represent an undue hardship. When an employee has a qualifying medical condition or religious belief, and the employer refuses to make reasonable accommodations, it is hard for the employer to prove that the accommodation would be an undue burden. As long as the accommodation is reasonable, the employee will prevail in many cases. To prove that the accommodation will cause undue hardship, the employer would have to provide compelling evidence of undue hardship.
Discuss Your Case With a Skilled New York Employment Attorney
HKM Employment Attorneys are dedicated to helping employees explore their legal options if their request for reasonable accommodation has been wrongly rejected. If you have requested a reasonable accommodation at work due to a medical condition, disability, or religious belief, and your employer has denied your accommodation request, we can help. We represent clients in New Paltz, New York, and the surrounding area. Contact HKM Employment Attorneys to schedule your initial case evaluation.