Reasonable Accommodation and Disability Rights in New York

Personal Injury News | March 19, 2024

Certain employee rights are guaranteed under law in New York. Acts discriminating against an employee based on these reasonable accommodations and disability rights are prohibited. New York employment law can be challenging to understand, but they are critical to an employee’s ability to function in and perform a job while protecting their rights.

Discrimination in the Workplace Based on Accommodations or Disability

Every individual has different needs in life, which creates a unique, diverse climate in which to live and work. Anti-discrimination laws protect the rights of individuals with religious considerations that may affect a work environment and those with disabilities or specific medical requirements. Human Rights Law in New York and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect against discrimination based on the need for reasonable accommodation.

Reasonable Accommodation Requests

Employees who need to adjust or rearrange their work environment due to a medical condition or disability should communicate these needs with their employer through an accommodation request stating the assistance is related to the disability or medical condition. The request does not have to be in writing.

An employer should participate and communicate with an employee about what accommodations can be made. Certain instances provide that a reasonable request for documentation of the disability can be made. While an employer may not provide the specific accommodation request, the accommodation should be effective.

Failing to provide reasonable accommodations for these needs may violate state and federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While smaller employers may not be subject to meeting ADA requirements, state laws may apply.

What Religious Reasonable Accommodations May Look Like in the Workplace

Accommodation for religious beliefs applies to multiple aspects of employment. Basing decisions to hire, assign, reassign, promote, or fire an employee based on these needs is illegal. The following examples are of reasonable accommodations for a religious need in the workplace:

  • Permitting religious garments
  • Break variances to accommodate prayer times
  • Religious holiday flexibility
  • Allowing participation in or the withdrawal from religious work activities
  • Allowing religious grooming practices

Failing to pay equally, provide the same benefits, or advance an employee based on the need for religious accommodation is prohibited.

What Disability or Medical Condition Reasonable Accommodations May Look Like in the Workplace

As with religious accommodation, accommodating a disability or medical condition will reflect an employee’s unique needs. These may include:

  • Work schedule modifications to allow for appointments or therapies
  • Time off to heal
  • Creating accessible areas where medical assistance devices are needed, such as wheelchairs
  • Job reassignment or modification
  • Allowing telecommuting options when possible

An exception to reasonable accommodation for a disability is only permitted when it causes an undue burden to business operations. Employers are still required to consider other outside funding sources, such as vocational rehabilitation agency funding or state or federal tax credits, to offset the costs of the burden. The employee with the disability should also be offered the opportunity to provide for or pay the company’s accommodation costs.

Protecting Your Reasonable Accommodation and Disability Rights in New York

Begin documenting your requests immediately for an accommodation in the workplace. Follow the channels outlined in your employment contract to handle disputes. Always seek guidance from an employment law attorney in New York to protect your rights and accommodations in the workplace.