Employers covered by the discrimination laws must provide reasonable accommodations to employees or applicants with disabilities. All covered employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees and applicants unless doing so would cause an undue hardship (i.e., significant difficulty or expense). A reasonable accommodation is a change in the work environment allowing a disabled person to perform his or her job duties or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment. The type of reasonable accommodation an employer must provide depends on the employee’s specific disability. It may include, for example, providing special facilities or equipment to allow an employee to do his or her job; allowing an employee to take time off from work; or modifying an employee’s work schedule to adjust arrival and departure times, shift duration or breaks.
A disabled employee should make a request for a reasonable accommodation to his employer, explaining what he needs in order to do his job. The request does not need to be in writing. To identify the appropriate accommodation, the employer and employee must engage in an interactive process. Employees who are merely “regarded as” disabled are not entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
New York State and City Human Rights laws also have broad protections for employees. Under city law, an employer’s failure to engage in the “interactive process” with a disabled employee may be deemed a failure to accommodate, in and of itself.
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