The New York Court of Appeals Reaffirms the Strength of the New York City Administrative Code’s Human Rights Law

On October 15, 2013, the New York Court of Appeals (New York State’s highest court) in Romanell v. Intesa Sanpaolo, S.p.A. reaffirmed the continuing strength of the NYC Administrative Code’s Human Rights Law.  The Plaintiff Romanello could no longer work at his job due to a number of ailments, including major depression.  He was out of work for 5 months and told his employer through counsel that he did not intend to abandon his job but that he was unable to return to work at that time.  His employer then fired him.  The Court noted that the employee hoped to keep his job through an indefinite leave of absence.

Under the NYC law, an employer has the burden of establishing that the employee could not, with reasonable accommodation, satisfy the essentials requisites of the job.  The Court concluded that while the Plaintiff told his employer about his disability, his employer failed to establish that he  could not perform his essential job functions with an accommodation.  Having failed to do so, the Court rejected the employer’s effort to dismiss the case.  The Court all noted that “we have held that the provisions of the City HRL should be construed broadly in favor of discrimination plaintiffs, to the extent that such a construction is reasonably possible.”