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What is “Cooperative Dialogue”?

dialogue“Cooperative Dialogue” in Employment Law

Making a request for accommodations in the workplace can be a stressful and intimidating process for many. Luckily, New York has enacted guidelines to make the process easier for employees and employers.

As of October 2018, all New York City employers with four or more employees are required to use “cooperative dialogue” in situations when an employee requests an accommodation in the workplace.

What is Cooperative Dialogue?

Cooperative dialogue is an interactive process that allows employees and employers to reach decisions about accommodations in the workplace. Employers must document the process and provide employees with a written version of whatever final determination is made concerning the request for accommodations. Any decision to deny a request for accommodation can only be made after the cooperative dialogue process.

Why might the cooperative dialogue process occur?

Cooperative dialogue is necessary any time an employee makes a request for an accommodation in the workplace. In some cases, an official request from the employee is unnecessary because the need for accommodation is apparent.

A request might be for a religious accommodation, a disability accommodation, or an accommodation related to a medical condition or to pregnancy or childbirth. There are also instances in which accommodation requests are related to domestic violence, stalking, or sex offenses.

Cooperative dialogue includes a written or oral communication about the accommodation, potential accommodations and any alternatives that might meet the needs of the employee, and any challenges faced by the employer concerning the accommodations.

Essentially, cooperative dialogue provides a chance to discuss all of the issues that might arise based on a request for accommodation.

What Happens If an Employer Fails to Comply with Cooperative Dialogue Guidelines?

Cooperative dialogue is required under New York City’s Human Rights Law. Any employer that fails to engage in cooperative dialogue or fails to document the process is in violation of the law.

To learn more about NYC’s Human Rights Law, check out this information from New York State.

If an employer fails to participate in cooperative dialogue, employees have the right to file administrative charges with New York City’s Commission on Human Rights. They can also file a lawsuit against the employer.

Failure to comply with cooperative dialogue laws can result in a fine of up to $250,000, as well as a number of other financial penalties.

As a result of the cooperative dialogue requirement, many New York City employers have implemented a standard response procedure that allows them to meet their obligations when an employee makes an accommodation request. Most human resources teams have also participated in training concerning cooperative dialogue to ensure they understand the requirements and are able to meet their obligations under the law.

If you’d like to know more about New York’s cooperative dialogue requirement or you believe your employer is in violation of the law, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. for more information.

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