New York Disability Discrimination Law | Unlawful Termination – Disability Discrimination
Extended Leave of Absence May Be a Reasonable Accommodation Under New York City Human Rights Law
In LaCourt v. Shenanigans Knits, Ltd., No. 102391/11 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Cty., Nov. 14, 2012), an employee informed her supervisor of her recent breast cancer diagnosis and decision to undergo a double mastectomy. Prior to her scheduled surgery date, the employee met with the company’s president, who informed her that the company was discharging her because of the significant recovery time required for her surgery and the importance of her position. Employee filed suit, alleging disability discrimination in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law. The employer argued that the employee could not perform the essential functions of her job because she planned to be absent from work for more than three months. The court rejected this argument and held that the company ignored its legal obligation to consider a reasonable accommodation and to engage in the interactive process. While an employer is not required to hold a position open indefinitely, the Court held that a temporary leave of absence, even an extended leave, can be a reasonable accommodation. Because here, the employer did not engage in the interactive process at all and failed to establish that they would have suffered an undue hardship by granting the plaintiff a three-month leave of absence, the Court held that the employee had stated a valid cause of action under the New York City Human Rights law.
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