New York City Bans Employment Discrimination Based on “Caregiver” Status

A new law that took effect in New York City in early 2016 offers another important protection for workers in the city. The law amends the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to include “caregiver status” as a category protected against employment discrimination. Also known as “family responsibilities discrimination,” this type of workplace discrimination affects people who, in addition to their job, have responsibility to care for a family member in their home. The new law states that employers may not discriminate in areas like hiring, firing, promotions, job duties, and other features of employment based on a person’s caregiver responsibilities.

Federal law does not provide general protection for caregivers against discrimination and other adverse employment actions. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people from discrimination based on their relationship to someone with a disability, provided both the relationship and the disability are known to the employer. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(4). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, protects employees from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions related to pregnancy, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a), but does not extend these protections to caregivers for children and others in a more general sense. As a result, an employee has recourse under Title VII and the ADA for adverse actions taken because of, for example, pregnancy or the responsibility to care for a disabled relative, but not necessarily for having a responsibility to care for children, grandchildren, or others.

At least one New York court has expressly stated that Title VII does not apply to caregivers. In a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which alleged disparate treatment between female employees returning from maternity leave and employees returning from leaves of comparable length, a Manhattan federal court found no evidence of “a pattern or practice of discrimination…in violation of Title VII.” EEOC v. Bloomberg LP, 778 F.Supp.2d 458, 461 (S.D.N.Y. 2011). The court summarized the EEOC’s complaint as “a judgment that Bloomberg, as a company policy, does not provide its employee-mothers with a sufficient work-life balance.” Id. at 485. It even quoted Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, who stated that “[t]here’s no such thing as work-life balance.” Id.

The new law in New York City extends the protection of the NYCHRL to “caregivers.” The law includes three important definitions. A “caregiver” is “a person who provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or a care recipient.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-102(30)(a), as amended by Int. 0108-2014. A “care recipient” is (1) a “covered relative” or (2) someone living with the caregiver  who “relies on the caregiver for medical care or to meet the needs of daily living.” Id. at § 8-102(30)(b). A “covered relative” is someone with a family relationship to the caregiver, including a spouse or domestic partner, child, stepchild, sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild, etc. Id. at § 8-102(30)(c).

The EEOC attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent job applicants and employees in claims for workplace discrimination and other unlawful practices in the greater New York City area. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced advocate for employee rights.

More Blog Posts:

New Laws Addressing Sexual Harassment, Pregnancy Discrimination, and Other Employment Issues Take Effect in New York, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 11, 2016

Former Hospital Employee’s Lawsuit Demonstrates the Short Distance Between Sexual Harassment and Pregnancy Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 24, 2015

Plaintiff in Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Claims Employer Fired Her Twice for Same Pregnancy, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 3, 2015

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