Federal Law and “Caregiver” Discrimination in Employment

Employment discrimination against workers because of their responsibilities to provide care for someone is now prohibited under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). This is one of the most extensive protections for caregivers in the country. In many jurisdictions, workers have little recourse against caregiver discrimination, which is sometimes also known as “family responsibility discrimination.” Federal law is not silent on the issue, but the protections offered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are not nearly as comprehensive as those of the NYCHRL.

Under amendments to the NYCHRL that will take effect in May 2016, a “caregiver” is someone with responsibility for caring for someone who relies on them for needs ranging from ongoing medical care to the basic necessities of life. This may include any person living in the caregiver’s home, or a minor child or other close relative regardless of where they live. N.Y.C. Admin. Code §§ 8-102(30)(a)-(c), as amended by Int. 0108-2014.

“Caretaker discrimination” consists of adverse actions taken by an employer because of an employee’s caregiver responsibilities. This might include reducing an employee’s hours, paying them a lower wage, denying them opportunities for extra shifts offered to other employees, or denying them a promotion for which they were qualified, solely or principally based on the employee’s responsibilities outside work. Under the new law amending the NYCHRL, this will be considered an “unlawful discriminatory practice.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code §§ 8-107(1)(a), as amended.

Federal anti-discrimination law does not expressly include caretakers among its protected groups. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,” treating it as a form of sex discrimination. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a). This only addresses an employee’s own condition, however. It does not provide any protection based on an employee’s responsibility to others. Unlawful pregnancy discrimination involves the pregnancy itself, the process of childbirth, and conditions that may arise in relation to either. The fact that, after childbirth, the employee may have additional responsibilities as a parent does not fall under the protection of the PDA and Title VII.

The ADA offers certain protections that are more directly analogous to those that the NYCHRL will soon offer, although they are not as broad in their scope. Employers may not discriminate against employees based on a disability, as the ADA defines that term. See 42 U.S.C. § 12102. The ADA’s anti-discrimination provisions are not limited to people with disabilities. They also apply to people who have a “relationship or association” with someone with a disability, if the employer has knowledge of both the disability and the person’s relationship to the employee. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(4). Caretakers responsible for the care of someone with a condition considered a disability under the ADA could therefore be protected from employment discrimination.

Phillips & Associates’ disability discrimination attorneys fight for the rights of job applicants and employees in the greater New York City area who have experienced discrimination and other unlawful employment practices. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced advocate for employees’ rights, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

More Blog Posts:

New York City Bans Employment Discrimination Based on “Caregiver” Status, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 18, 2016

New York City Law Regarding Caregiver Discrimination May Leave Questions Regarding Reasonable Accommodations, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 14, 2016

EEOC Reviews Pregnancy Discrimination and Discrimination Against Caregiving Workers, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 27, 2012

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