How New York City’s Law Prohibiting “Caregiver” Discrimination Differs from State Law Regarding “Familial Status”

Both New York City and the state of New York have recently enacted laws expanding protections against workplace discrimination based on issues affecting workers’ family or home lives. New York City’s law regarding caregiver discrimination, or “family responsibilities discrimination,” assists the many people who must juggle full-time employment with caring for an elderly or disabled relative, or another person living in their home. New York state law now prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “familial status.” While these two laws might sound similar, they protect workers based on different criteria. Both laws offer greater protection than federal anti-discrimination law, although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers guidance on how federal law might be able to help.

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), under amendments passed by the City Council in January 2016 that take effect in May, applies a very broad definition of “caregiver.” It includes anyone who provides “direct and ongoing care” for either a “minor child” or a “care recipient.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-102(30)(a). The latter group, “care recipients,” consists of relatives or other people residing with the caregiver who “rel[y] on the caregiver for medical care or to meet the needs of daily living.” Id. at § 8-102(30)(b). The statute does not specify that the minor child under the caregiver’s care must be biologically or legally related to the caregiver. It only states that the care provided to the child must be “direct and ongoing.”

Caregiver status will become a protected category under the NYCHRL once the new law takes effect, meaning that employers may not discriminate against employees based solely on their caregiver responsibilities. N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a). Employers are also prohibited from inquiring about a job applicant’s caregiver status, and from stating that caregiver status is a factor in hiring decisions. Id. at § 8-107(1)(d).

The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) already defines “familial status,” with regard to adults, as being pregnant, having custody of a minor child, or being in the process of obtaining legal custody of a minor child. N.Y. Exec. L. § 292(26). This does not include caregiving responsibilities for anyone age 18 or older, regardless of their caregiving needs. “Familial status” effectively refers to pregnancy and the legal responsibilities of parenthood.

Amendments to the NYSHRL, which were signed into law in October 2015 and took effect in January, add familial status to the list of protected categories. Employers may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of their familial status. This is similar to federal laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination, but the NYSHRL also applies to employees with parental duties. N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(1)(a). The new law also prohibits employers from asking about familial status during the hiring process. It expressly states, however, that employers do not have any additional obligations, beyond those already found in the NYSHRL, to provide reasonable accommodations to employees. Id. at § 296(3).

The gender discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of employees and job seekers in New York City, helping them bring claims under federal, state, and local employment statutes. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Law and “Caregiver” Discrimination in Employment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 3, 2016

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

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