New York City made history at the beginning of 2016, when a new law took effect that expands the protections of the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to people with full-time care responsibilities for family members and people residing in their homes. The new law prohibits discrimination against an employee or job applicant based solely on their status as a “caregiver,” which is sometimes also known as “family responsibilities discrimination.” The law does not, however, offer a specific definition of the responsibilities that make a person a protected “caregiver.” It may also leave open to interpretation the extent to which an employer has an affirmative obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee who is also a caregiver. This could lead to conflict, including litigation, over how to enforce the law.
The NYCHRL offers some of the broadest protection of any anti-discrimination statute in the country. Federal law protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, color, national origin, and in some cases, age and disability. New York City goes much further, adding protected categories like sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, criminal history, current employment status, and now caregiver status.
A “caregiver,” for the purposes of the NYCHRL, is a person who “provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or a care recipient.” N.Y. Admin. Code § 8-102(30)(a). The NYCHRL defines a “care recipient” as someone who is either a “covered relative” or who lives with the caregiver, and who “relies on the caregiver for medical care or to meet the needs of daily living.” Id. at § 8-102(30)(b). Finally, it defines a “covered relative” as someone with a family relationship to the caregiver, such as a “child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, [or] grandchild or grandparent.” Id. at 8-102(30)(c). What might prove to be ambiguous in future disputes are the meanings of “relies on…for medical care” and “to meet the needs of daily living” in § 8-102(30)(b).