New York’s disability law is far more lenient than ADA

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

New York employers, beware: The state law that protects employees from disability discrimination covers more ailments and impairments than the federal ADA. That means New York employers have to offer accommodations to employees with less serious medical conditions than do employers in many other states.

The New York Human Rights Law (NYHRL) protects employees even if their impairments don’t “substantially limit a major life activity,” which is the gold standard of ADA eligibility. Instead, New York employees need to prove only that they have a medical impairment.

Recent case: Arturo Batac sued his former employer, alleging it fired him after he had a heart attack. He cited the ADA and the NYHRL.

But he couldn’t show that his heart problems substantially impaired any major life function. He was able to work, breathe, walk, sit, stand and perform other life activities “with care.”

The 2nd Circuit agreed that Batac didn’t have an ADA case. But the state threshold for a disability was lower, so the court let him go to trial to prove that his condition is protected under state law. (Batac v. Pavarini Construction, No. 06-0677-CV, 2nd Cir., 2007)

Final note: The NYHRL defines a disability as “a physical, mental or medical impairment resulting from anatomical, physiological, genetic or neurological conditions which prevents the exercise of a normal bodily function or is demonstrable by medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques.” It protects disabled applicants and employees who, with reasonable accommodations, can perform their jobs “in a reasonable manner.”  

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