Compliance with “Cooperative Dialogue” for Accommodation Requests

What Does Cooperative Dialogue Mean Under New NYC Law?

As of October 15, 2018, employers have a new law they must comply with when an employee requests an accommodation based on their civil rights. Many business owners are aware of the recently passed New York City Civil Rights Law that requires distribution of anti-sexual harassment policies and annual anti-sexual harassment training for all the business’s employees. However, this new law regarding cooperative dialogue slipped through without many people realizing it.

Based on NYC procedural law, a mayor can do the following: sign the bill, veto it or take no action. When the mayor takes no action, the unsigned bill goes into effect. This is what occurred with the recent bill addressing Cooperative Dialogue for Accommodation Requests.

What are the provisions of the new cooperative dialogue law?

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) outlines the main provisions of the new law. The law applies when employee requests a workplace accommodation. The basis for accommodation requests may be due to religious practices, disability, pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions or based on domestic violence, sex offenses or stalking. NYC employers with four employees or less must comply with the new law.

The employee triggers the legal obligation by requesting an accommodation. The employer receives notification of it either by the employee or employee’s surrogate (someone representing the employee).

Next, the employer must engage in cooperative dialogue with the employee or surrogate regarding the request. Cooperative dialogue can be written or oral communications. Employers should also have dialogue about the possible accommodations to address the request and should mention any potential difficulties in accommodating it.

In addition, the employer must provide the employee with written documentation of the final determination, which includes whether the employer granted or denied the accommodation. Employers can deny accommodation requests only after reasonable dialogue has taken place about the accommodation.

Penalties for Failure to Comply

Under NYC Human Rights law, employers may face charges of unlawful discrimination. Employees can file complaints with the NYC Commission on Human Rights. The commission can initiate a commissioner’s charge and employees can privately sue. They can seek compensatory, punitive, equitable and injunctive relief. They can also seek up to $25,000 per violation and up to $250,000 for a willful, wanton or malicious violation plus attorney’s fees through a civil lawsuit.

Do You Have Questions about Employment Law?

Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to advise regarding your concerns.

 

 

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