NY Court: Indefinite leave may be a reasonable accommodation for disabilities

New York City.

As Jay-Z and Alicia Keys sang, it’s the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There’s nothin’ you can’t do.”

That includes taking indefinite leave as a “reasonable” accommodation under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Yep. That’s what the song means. Trust me. It’s in the liner notes.

HOVA foreshadows this recent decision, in which the NY State Court of Appeals held that leave for an indefinite period of time may, indeed, be a reasonable accommodation — unless the employer can show that it would cause an undue hardship.

Richard Cohen at the Employment Discrimination Blog wrote here about why this ruling will leave a worse taste in employer’s mouth than the City’s froo-froo salsa:

This ruling, although virtually preordained by the City law’s edict that it be construed “broadly in favor of discrimination plaintiffs” to effectuate the law’s “uniquely broad and remedial purposes” (as this Court reiterated) is nonetheless a blow to employers who have relied upon interpretations of New York state and federal statutes which have found that an indefinite leave is not a reasonable accommodation.

Now, courts agree that the Americans with Disabilities Act, which contemplates a number of possible forms of reasonable accommodation, doesn’t go so far as to include indefinite leave among them. However, employers in NYC and in other localities with disability discrimination laws more expansive than the ADA shouldn’t dismiss an indefinite leave request out of hand.

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