Employers Must Engage in Good Faith Interactive Process When Employee with a Known Disability Requests an Accommodation

On March 27, 2014, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that an employer who failed to engage in a good faith interactive process before denying a disabled employee an accommodation potentially violated the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

In Jacobsen v. New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation, an employer denied the request of a former employee to relocate him as an accommodation related to his lung disease.  After returning from an unpaid medical leave of absence, the employee was terminated without any attempt by the employer to discuss reasonable accommodations that would permit him to continue working.  The employee then sued his employer based on allegations of discrimination.  In denying the employer’s motion to dismiss the complaint, the court found that the employer may have discriminated against the employee by failing to engage in an interactive process to assess potential disability accommodations.

Employers should be mindful of the need to discuss and assess reasonable disability accommodations that would permit an employee to perform their essential job function before making any employment decisions, including termination.  If you have any questions about the interactive process requirement, please contact Marianne Monroy, Lauren Rieders, or the GW attorney with whom you regularly work.

~ Submitted by M Monroy and L Rieders

Categories: Employment Law