How Title VII Deals with Caretaker Discrimination in New York Courts

Legislation signed by the mayor of New York City in January 2016, which will take effect in May, amends the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to protect “caregivers” against employment discrimination. Int. 108-A (N.Y.C. Council, Jan. 5, 2016). The new law defines “caregiver” quite broadly, and it prohibits discrimination by employers because of an employee’s “actual or perceived status as a caregiver.” State law offers some protection for workers with caregiving responsibilities, but not as much as the NYCHRL will once the new law takes effect. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal anti-discrimination statute, does not provide much protection in this regard, as a Manhattan federal court made clear several years ago in EEOC v. Bloomberg, L.P., 778 F.Supp.2d 458 (S.D.N.Y. 2011).

The recently enacted amendments to the NYCHRL define a “caregiver” as someone who “provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or care recipient.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-102(30)(a), as amended by Int. 108-A. “Care recipients” include individuals residing with the caregiver and “covered relatives,” who do not have to live in the caregiver’s household. Id. at § 8-102(30)(b). A care recipient is someone who “relies on the caregiver for medical care or to meet the needs of daily living.” Id. The term “covered relative” includes most familial relationships. Id. at § 8-102(30)(c). The term “caregiver” can therefore apply to parents and legal guardians of minor children, people caring for an elderly, disabled, or sick relative, and a wide range of other scenarios.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against Bloomberg based on allegations of a pattern or practice of discrimination against employees who became pregnant and took maternity leave. The lawsuit asserted claims for pregnancy discrimination, a well-established area of law under Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a). The case amounted to a claim that the defendant systematically discriminated against employees with new parental caregiving responsibilities. The court rejected this argument.

The EEOC alleged that the defendant, a “financial services and media company,” Bloomberg, 778 F.Supp.2d at 462, discriminated against this group of employees in numerous ways, including by “subject[ing] them to stereotypes about female caregivers.” Id. These acts violated Title VII, the EEOC claimed, since they involved disparate treatment based on “sex and/or pregnancy… or the fact that they took leave for pregnancy related-reasons [sic].” Id.

The defendant moved for summary judgment on the EEOC’s pattern or practice claim, claiming that the plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient to support a claim. It challenged the case on three grounds:  the insufficiency of the EEOC’s evidence, statistical evidence from the defendant that disproved the EEOC’s claims, and the confluence of the two, entitling the defendant to summary judgment. The court agreed with the defendant on each ground and granted summary judgment on the pattern or practice claim.

Phillips & Associates’ pregnancy discrimination attorneys advocate for the rights of job applicants, employees, and former employees in New York City in claims brought under local, state, and federal employment laws. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

More Blog Posts:

How New York City’s Law Prohibiting “Caregiver” Discrimination Differs from State Law Regarding “Familial Status”, New York Employment Attorney Blog, March 10, 2016

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

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