Protection Against Retaliation for Accommodation Requests in New York City

The New York City Council passed Intro 799 this past June. This ordinance is awaiting the mayor’s signature, and it will protect individuals who request reasonable accommodations from retaliation by their employers.

What does this mean for you?

The New York City Human Rights Law is one of the most progressive anti-discrimination laws in the nation. The law mandates that all employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for certain protected groups of employees. An employer must grant reasonable accommodations to employees who are disabled, pregnant, victims of domestic violence, or part of a protected class. Providing an accommodation is required unless doing so would produce undue hardship for the employer.

Additionally, the New York City Human Rights Law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against people who engage in various protected activities. Employers, landlords and the like, cannot take adverse action against people who file discrimination lawsuits, assist in discrimination investigations, or engage in a variety of other protected activities.

Appellate Courts in New York have recently taken some of the teeth out of the New York City Human Rights Law. They have held that a request for accommodation does not constitute a protected activity. In response, the New York City Council drafted Intro 799, which was designed to re-affirm the intent of the New York City Human Rights Law. The amendment adds requests for reasonable accommodation explicitly as a protected activity. The hope is that in the future, the Appellate Courts will interpret the New York City Human Rights Law more broadly, and in conformity with the legislative intent of the New York City Council.

Specific details added by the New York City Council.

This new amendment to Chapter 1 of section 8-107(7) of the New York City Human Rights law will make it illegal to retaliate when a person has, among other things, asked for a reasonable accommodation. Companies, landlords, and other covered entities that engage in this kind of discrimination can be subject to significant penalties, just as they would be if they retaliated against a person for reporting discrimination and other forms of wrongdoing.

What Can Employees Do?

Employees who believe that their employer has wrongfully taken action against them will soon be able to use this section of the New York City Human Rights Law to bring a claim against their employer. Discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, age, disability status, and many other protected categories is illegal under Federal, New York State, and New York City anti-discrimination laws. Consulting with an experienced employment attorney is key to preserving potential claims. Firms that keep up with and understand legislative authority can be especially helpful in these matters.