New York City’s Human Rights Law changed in early 2018. The changes went into effect on October 15, 2018. The amendment requires organizations to engage in a “cooperative dialogue” when they learn, either directly or indirectly, that an individual requires an accommodation for disability, religious or other covered purposes.
What does this mean for your business? When someone requests an accommodation your staff should be engaging in this discussion, and, under the law, you’re required to document what happened in the discussion.
Just because an employee or customer fails to specifically ask for an accommodation, it doesn’t mean you’re excused from following the law.
Some examples of accommodation requests sound like:
“My wheelchair can’t get through an aisle in your store.”
“My doctor told me I had to go on bed rest for two months before my delivery date. How can I keep getting paid?” and
“My colleague can only concentrate in a quiet space. Our communal desk space keeps her from getting work done.”
Each of these scenarios should flag for you and your managers the need for a cooperative dialogue.
So what is a cooperative dialogue? What do you have to do? It’s a conversation with the person who needs an accommodation. Talk with the person and try to come up with a reasonable solution (or accommodation) that meets that person’s needs.
The accommodation doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. For example, if you don’t have the funds to widen an aisle to fit a wheelchair through, you may offer to get items for the person who can’t maneuver down the aisle. If you can let a mother on bedrest work from home, you devise a schedule to do that. In essence, you try to arrive at an accommodation that works for both the person and the business.
If you operate in New York City your organization is required to make a good faith effort to engage in a collaborative dialogue. The law looks at a few factors to determine if a workplace made this effort including:
- whether the covered entity has a policy and
- whether the covered entity responded to the request in a timely manner
If you already have a policy you may want to review it to ensure it complies with the new requirements – namely does it set out that a cooperative dialogue will take place and how and when someone making a request receives a written response.
For more guidance on cooperative dialogues you can review this guidance from New York City.
Need help getting your policies in order? Come to our Policy Bootcamp on December 12th at General Assembly.