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November 1, 2017

New York City's City Council may, by express language, limit the New York City Civil Rights Law provide narrower coverage than the NYSHRL or the federal ADA


New York City's City Council may, by express language, limit the New York City Civil Rights Law provide narrower coverage than the NYSHRL or the federal ADA
2017 NY Slip Op 07208, Court of Appeals

In response to a question certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Court of Appeals has advised the Circuit Court of Appeals that  has certified — and we have accepted for review (29 NY3d 1019 [2017]) — the §§8-102 (16) (c) and 8-107 (1) (a) of the New York City Administrative Code precludes a plaintiff from bringing a disability discrimination claim based solely on a perception of untreated alcoholism.

The court explained that § 8-102 [16] [c] stated that "[i]n the case of alcoholism, drug addiction or other substance abuse, the term 'disability' shall only apply to a person who (1) is recovering or has recovered and (2) currently is free of such abuse, and shall not include an individual who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs, when the covered entity acts on the basis of such use."

Applying the rules of statutory interpretation to this case, the Court of Appeals conclude that the certified question should be answered in the affirmative because the Administrative Code does not consider a mistaken perception of alcoholism to be a disability covered by the NYCHRL.

The court said the Second Circuit had noted that "there is no ambiguity about the plain language of the NYCHRL, which is only open to one reasonable interpretation: the disability of alcoholism "shall only apply to a person who (1) is recovering or has recovered and (2) currently is free of such abuse."

The Court of Appeals indicated that the NYCHRL covers circumstances in which employers unfairly typecast alcoholics who have sought treatment and who are not presently abusing alcohol so as to ensure that such persons are afforded a fair opportunity at recovery. In other words, NYCHRL is triggered "only when the individual "is recovering or has recovered" and "currently is free of such abuse."

In contrast, the NYSHLR and the ADA cover alcoholics presently abusing alcohol, as well as recovering and recovered alcoholics. However, said the Court of Appeals, " this is a rare case where through its express language, the City Council has mandated narrower coverage than the NYSHRL or the ADA."

The court's conclusion, Judge Garcia dissenting, in which dissent Judge Stein concurs: the Administrative Code does not consider a mistaken perception of alcoholism to be a disability covered by the NYCHRL

Public Personnel Law E-books

The Discipline Book - A concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State set out in a 700 page e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - A 442-page e-book focusing on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service in instances where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. Now available in two formats - as a large, paperback print edition and as an e-book. For more information click on

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General Municipal Law §§207-a and 207-c - Disability Leave for fire, police and other public sector personnel - A 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder. For more information click on

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