New York City’s Caregiver Discrimination Statute Filled Several Important Gaps in Anti-Discrimination Law

CaregiverIn 2016, New York City amended its anti-discrimination statute to prohibit discrimination in employment based on caregiver duties. Several state and federal employment laws address discrimination on the basis of certain caregiving responsibilities, but New York City’s law covers a much wider range of people. Few, if any, cases interpreting this law have made their way through the courts in the last year. A look at a few New York court decisions that pre-date the new law, however, can provide an idea of where legal protection for caregivers was needed.

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) protects employees from discrimination on the basis of “caregiver status.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a). It defines a “caregiver” as someone “who provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or a care recipient.” Id. at § 8-102(30)(a). A “care recipient” is either a “covered relative” or someone living with the caregiver, who has a disability and “relies on the caregiver for medical care or to meet the needs of daily living.” Id. at § 8-102(30)(b). Finally, a “covered relative” could be a child, spouse or partner, sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or mother- or father-in-law. Id. at § 8-102(30)(c).

A “caregiver,” under the NYCHRL, may therefore include not only parents but also people caring for a sick or disabled parent or other relative, regardless of sex or gender. This is an important feature of the statute, since caregiver discrimination has often had a close relation to discrimination on the basis of sex. A New York City federal court ruled on a class action alleging caregiver discrimination under anti-discrimination and equal pay statutes in Kassman v. KPMG, LLP, 925 F.Supp.2d 453 (S.D.N.Y. 2013). The plaintiffs alleged multiple discriminatory practices, including “treating pregnant employees and mothers differently from non-pregnant employees, male employees, and non-caregivers.” Id. at 460. Unfortunately, the court dismissed several of the claims, finding that “caregiver…discrimination [is] not actionable under” state and federal equal pay laws. Id. at 473.

A Second Circuit decision demonstrated the close relationship between caregiver discrimination and a form of sex discrimination known as sex stereotyping. The plaintiff alleged that she was fired because of a “presum[ption] that she, as a young mother, would not continue to demonstrate the necessary devotion to her job.” Back v. Hastings Union Free Sch. Dist., 365 F.3d 107, 113 (2d Cir. 2004). The court upheld her sex discrimination claims against individual administrators, but it affirmed the dismissal of the claims against the school district.

The court’s opinion in Back quoted from a then-recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that addressed sex stereotypes related to caregiving, which offers a compelling case for the NYCHRL’s caregiver discrimination provisions. The Supreme Court noted that stereotypes about women as caregivers were “reinforced by parallel stereotypes presuming a lack of domestic responsibilities for men.” Nev. Dep’t of Human Res. v. Hibbs, 538 U.S. 721, 736 (2003). This “created a self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination” that tended to deny employment opportunities to women while also denying men’s role as caregivers. Id.

The experienced and knowledgeable caregiver discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates advocate on behalf of job seekers, employees, and former employees in New York City. We represent clients in claims for unlawful employment practices under local, state, and federal laws. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Paid Family Leave Statute to Take Effect in New York in 2018, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 12, 2017

How the Law Might Protect New Fathers in New York Against Caregiver Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 4, 2016

How Title VII Deals with Caretaker Discrimination in New York Courts, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 6, 2016

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