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NON-UNION PUBLIC PROFILE EMPLOYEES NO LONGER CAN BE FORCED TO PAY UNION AGENCY FEES

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

For approximately 40 years, public sector employee unions could collect union “agency fees” from the paychecks of even those employees who chose not to join the union.  The premise was that even non-members benefitted from the contracts the unions negotiated with public entities, so should have to pay at least something for that benefit.  Many of the non-member employees objected because the unions at times took positions on political or other issues with which they disagreed, but were forced to pay to support.  The U.S.

Bereavement Leave Likely to Be Added to NY Paid Family Leave

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The NYS Legislature has passed a bill which would add bereavement leave to the list of permissible reasons to take paid family leave.  The bill would allow employees to use paid family leave after the death of a family member.  It would also allow those who have already been using paid family leave to care for a family member to use any remaining time for bereavement.

New Guidance for Handbooks from NLRB

Monday, June 18, 2018

Earlier this month, the NLRB issued a guidance on employee handbook rules, which follows its landmark decision in The Boeing Company last December.  The Boeing case established a new standard when evaluating whether a work rule violates the law, and focused on the negative impact on the employees’ ability to exercise their rights and the policy’s connection to the employer’s right to maintain discipline and productivity in the workplace.  The guidance signals that the new General Counsel will take a more employer friendly approach than the Obama NLRB did in interpreting federal la

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Baker Refusing to Create Cake for Same-Sex Couple Does Not Change Law for Employers

Friday, June 08, 2018

In a narrow recent Decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission illegally found against a baker who claimed his religious beliefs prevented him from creating a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.   The key was that the Commission allowed other bakers to refuse to create cakes that demeaned gays and same-sex marriages.

Don’t Forget About the Interactive Process in Reasonable Accommodation Requests

Monday, June 04, 2018

When an employee informs an employer he/she has a disability that requires accommodation, employers must remember that engaging in an interactive process with that employee is imperative.  It is not enough for an employer to simply provide what it believes is a reasonable accommodation.  The interactive process must be used to facilitate a conversation between employer and employee to determine the different reasonable accommodation possibilities.  They can then decide together what the best option will be for that employee, as long as that option is not an undue burden on the employer. 

Expected 2019 PFL Developments

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

As New York State employers continue to manage their first year of paid family leave (PFL) benefits available to employees in 2018 (8 weeks maximum), comments and predictions about what the Legislature might do for 2019 have emerged.  As expected, we have heard that the disability insurers who pay out the PFL benefits to eligible employees are indicating that the current amount withheld from employees’ pay to cover PFL benefits is insufficient. 

New Anti-Harassment Provisions for Employers

Thursday, April 26, 2018

This month, Governor Cuomo signed a new anti-harassment law, and it contains provisions for private and public employers related to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Effectively immediately, employees are protected from harassment not only by other employees, but also “non-employees,” which can include vendors, consultants, contractors, and others providing services pursuant to a contract. 

Legislators Seek to Curb After-Hours Work

Monday, April 09, 2018

As reported recently by the Associated Press, a New York City Council member, perhaps influenced by a recent French law, has proposed legislation to allow some employees the right to ignore after-hours communications from employers. The proposal would apply to NYC employers with 10 or more employees, and would prohibit them from requiring employees to respond to or act on after-hours telephone calls, texts, emails etc. that are not emergencies, or discipline them for failing to do so.  It would not bar employers from sending such emails, and employees could respond if they so choose.

PFL Deductions Regulation Clarified

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A new regulation clarifies how deductions can be made from employee paychecks to fund New York’s Paid Family Leave program. 

Until this month, the general understanding was that a maximum of 0.126% of New York State Average Weekly Wage paycheck could be deducted from employees’ weekly wages.  That meant any deductions were capped at $1.65 a week.

Proposed Legislation: The Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act

Monday, March 19, 2018

In another attempt to stem sexual harassment in the workplace, legislation proposed in both the House and the Senate at the end of last month would require publicly traded companies to report information related to harassment or discrimination settlements and complaints in their SEC filings.  So far the measure lacks bipartisan support, but this latest proposed legislation is further evidence that workplace harassment and discrimination has lawmakers’ attention and will for a long time to come. 

Governmental Affairs
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Second Circuit Rules Reasonable Accommodation Must Be Provided, Even if Not Requested by Employee

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, employers are required to provide disabled employees with a reasonable accommodation when necessary to allow that employee to perform the essential duties of their position. Generally, it is the responsibility of an employee with a disability to advise the employer of the existence of the disability and the need for a reasonable accommodation. After such a request, the employer and the requesting employee should engage in the interactive process—a discussion between the employer and the employee to identify a suitable accommodation.

An important exception to this general rule has developed, due to a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued on July 2, 2008. In Brady v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the Second Circuit considered whether an employee with an “obvious disability” must first request a reasonable accommodation before the employer is obligated to engage in the interactive process with the employee. Plaintiff Patrick Brady has cerebral palsy, which manifested itself in several known and visible manners. Indeed, the trial testimony revealed that Brady’s disability was clear and obvious to anyone who observed him. Despite his obvious disability, Brady did not believe that he needed any accommodation to perform the essential duties of his job and, therefore, never requested that his employer provide him with a reasonable accommodation.

Considering Brady’s claim that Wal-Mart failed to accommodate his disability, the Second Circuit first re-confirmed the general rule that a disabled employee must advise the employer that they have a disability and request a reasonable accommodation. However, the Court concluded that an exception to this general rule exists—“an employer has a duty reasonably to accommodate an employee’s disability if the disability is obvious—which is to say, if the employer knew or reasonably should have known that the employee was disabled.” The Second Circuit held that, when an employee’s disability is obvious, the employer has the obligation to initiate the interactive process and determine whether a reasonable accommodation exists that will permit the employee to perform all of the essential duties of their position.

The Court reasoned that the notice requirement of the general rule (requiring a request from the employee) is “rooted in common sense” and, therefore, an employer need not receive a notice from the employee where the disability is obvious or otherwise known to the employer. Clearly, an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of disability if it does not know of the disabling condition; similarly, the notice requirement prevents an employee from keeping their disability a secret but nevertheless filing a claim for failure to accommodate their disability. The Court found that both of these concerns are obviated and irrelevant when the disabling condition is obvious or otherwise known to the employer.

Due to this new exception to the general rule requiring that an employee request that the employer provide a reasonable accommodation, employers must be extra vigilant in working with disabled employees. If you have an employee with an obvious disability, it is now incumbent on the employer to approach the employee and commence the interactive process—the employer must initiate the conversation about whether the employee requires a reasonable accommodation. Similarly, the same obligation would seem to exist if the employer otherwise knows of the employee’s disabling condition—for example, where the employer knows of the condition because the employee took a Family and Medical Leave Act leave due to their own serious health condition, or the employee has submitted a workers’ compensation claim concerning their own disabling condition. In these circumstances, it would seem prudent for an employer to initiate the interactive process with the employee, determine whether a reasonable accommodation is appropriate and identify that accommodation.

If you have questions concerning your compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or this new requirement of that statute, contact Chapter Legislative Representative Paul F. Keneally, Esq. at 585-258-2882 or at keneally@underbergkessleer.com.

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