Indefinite leave may be required under broader New York City law

On 10 October 2013, the New York Court of Appeals held that New York employers are not required to provide indefinite leave as an accommodation under the state disability discrimination law, but that they may be required to do so under the broader New York City law. In Romanello v Intesa Sanpaolo, the state’s highest court affirmed a lower court order dismissing a disability discrimination claim under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) by Giuseppe Romanello against his former employer, Intesa Sanpaolo. However, the court reversed the lower court’s dismissal of Romanello’s claim under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), finding that this claim may be viable under the broader protections of the City law. The dissent, however, argued that the complaint had sufficiently pled a claim even under the NYSHRL because it alleged that the employer failed to engage in an interactive process with the plaintiff before terminating his employment.

Romanello, a former executive, took a medical leave of absence for major depression and other medical issues. After he had been on leave for almost five months, the company contacted him to advise him that his protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act was set to expire and to inquire whether he intended to return to work or abandon his position. When Romanello responded that his prognosis was uncertain and his return to work date indeterminate, the company responded by terminating his employment. Romanello thereafter brought a disability discrimination suit against Intesa Sanpaolo, under both the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL. The trial court dismissed both claims, and the intermediate appellate court affirmed the dismissals…

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