New York City Clarifies Right to Reasonable Accommodations for Religious Beliefs

Earlier this year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). The amendment clarifies when employers in New York City are required to provide reasonable accommodations for the religious observances and practices of their employees and prospective employees.

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations unless they cause the employer an undue hardship. The amendment to the NYCHRL indicates that some of the factors to consider when determining if an accommodation causes an undue hardship include:

1. The nature and cost of the accommodation;
2. The financial resources of the facility;
3. The number of employees working at the facility;
4. The effect providing the accommodation would have the facility’s expenses and resources;
5. The overall financial resources of the employer;
6. The number of employees working for the employer;
7. The number, type, and location of the employer’s facilities;
8. The composition and functions of the employer’s workforce; and
9. How geographically spread out or close together the employer’s facilities are.

NYC Skyline.jpgThe amendment also makes it that the employer has the burden to prove an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on it. However, it makes it clear an employer is not required to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious practice or belief if the employee would be unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job even with the accommodation.

New York State, New Jersey, and federal law already require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious belief. However, this law is significant because New York City law has been interpreted very broadly. For example, as discussed in a previous article, New York’s Appellate Division has ruled, in the context of reasonable accommodations for a disability, that an Extended Medical Leave Can Be Reasonable Accommodation Under New York Law.

Contact one of our employment law attorneys if your employer has denied you a reasonable accommodation for your disability, religious practice, or religious belief in either New York or New Jersey.

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