Reasonable Accommodation

You have a disability. You may be able to do your job without any changes in the workplace. On the other hand, you may need an accommodation to help you perform the essential functions of your job.

For example, you are a secretary or an administrative assistant in New York State or New York City. A small portion of your job is to distribute the mail. Sometimes, a heavy package arrives at the office. You have a limitation in lifting objects over ten pounds because you have a disc problem. You ask your employer if one of the other secretaries or administrative assistants can distribute a heavy package that has come in the mail. Your employer says no, insisting that distributing the mail is part of your job and you have to do it. You show your employer your doctor’s note which says that you should not lift objects more than ten pounds. Your employer says “too bad”, and fires you. That’s an easy case. You asked for a reasonable accommodation and your employer rejected it.

Generally, you are entitled to a reasonable accommodation if it does not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer. What is undue hardship? The law in New York City takes into account the size of the workforce, the financial resources of the employer, and the impact that making the accommodation would have on the employer. These are broad concepts. Simply put, you would ask how large is the employer and how great is the accommodation requested. The employer would have to show that the accommodation, in the particular circumstances, constituted an “undue hardship”.

Some categories of reasonable accommodation include job restructuring, sick leave, modified or part-time schedule, modified work place policies, and reassignment. There are many other categories and specific examples within those categories. The list isn’t exactly endless, but it is fact specific – meaning that the accommodation will relate to your particular disability, the extent of the accommodation requested, and your employer’s ability to provide the accommodation. Each case has to be looked at on its own merits.

Once you tell your employer about your disability and the need for a reasonable accommodation (often backed up by doctor’s notes), your employer has to engage in a good faith, interactive process to work out an accommodation which will permit you to perform the essential functions of your job. Your employer will have to listen to and consider your suggestions, and you will have to listen to and consider the employer’s suggestions.

If you are afraid to ask for an accommodation, know that your employer cannot retaliate against you for requesting an accommodation. Nor can your employer subject you to a hostile environment once you have made your disability known, and requested an accommodation.

Contact us online or call us at (212) 949-1001 so that we can review if your New York City employer has subjected you to disability discrimination by not giving you a reasonable accommodation in violation of law in New York State or New York City.