New York City Human Right Law Imposes Stringent Accommodation Requirements For Businesses

Author:Ms Chantelle Egan, Dennis H. Greenstein and Samuel Sverdlov
Profession:Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Seyfarth Synopsis:  On January 19, 2018, the New York City passed a law requiring that businesses engage in "cooperative dialogue" with individuals with disabilities and in other protected categories in the context of employment, housing and public accommodations.

The New York City Council recently amended the New York City Human Rights Law to expressly require that a broad cross section of businesses dialogue with individuals with disabilities and others regarding their accommodation needs. Specifically, housing providers, employers, and public accommodations must comply with a specific protocol for evaluating requests for accommodations by individuals with disabilities.  While generally consistent with the requirement that employers engage in the "interactive process" under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the scope of the new law, which will take effect on October 15, 2018, is broader than existing federal requirements.

The "Cooperative Dialogue" Obligation

Here are the key components of the amendment:

The new law applies to "covered entities," which include housing providers (i.e. owners, landlords, and cooperative and condominium boards), employers, and places of public accommodation (i.e. retailers and other public-facing businesses). The amendment makes it an "unlawful discriminatory practice" for a covered entity to fail to engage in the "cooperative dialogue," which refers to a written or oral dialogue concerning an individual's accommodation needs, the individual's requested accommodation and potential alternatives, and difficulties that potential accommodations may pose for the business.  The cooperative dialogue requirement is not only triggered by requests for accommodation, but also when the covered entity is considered on notice of an individual's need for an accommodation. The determination must be made within a "reasonable time" (the statute does not provide any definition or other guidance as to what qualifies as "reasonable"). Significantly, employers and housing providers (not public accommodations) must provide a written final determination identifying any accommodation granted or denied.     What The Amendment Means For Businesses

Housing Providers

Housing providers must engage in the cooperative dialogue with unit owners, co-op shareholders, tenants, and other residents with disabilities, and issue a written decision.  Although it is a best practice to memorialize these communications, some housing...

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