NY Employers are Prohibited from Caregiver Discrimination in the Workplace

The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in attention placed on the importance of the role of caregivers in our society. This reverence is reflected in New York City’s Human Rights Law, which now includes persons who qualify as “caregivers.” 

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) is a civil rights legislation that prohibits employment discrimination based on factors, including race, color, age, national origin, alienage/citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, and partnership status. This law offers far more extensive civil rights protection than the federal and the state government. Recently, the NYCHRL has been expanded to include caregivers as a protected class. 

Definitions Under the New York City Human Rights Law

The NYCHRL considers a caregiver as someone “who provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or care recipient.” Under the law, “minor children” are people under 18 years of age who are the legal ward or biological, adopted, or foster child of the person providing the care. A “care recipient” is defined as someone with a disability who is a relative covered under this law or one who resides in the caregiver’s home and receives medical care or help with daily needs from the caregiver.    

The covered relatives include the following:

  • Children
  • Children of the caregiver’s spouse or domestic partner 
  • Spouses
  • Domestic partner
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • Individuals with familial relationships defined by the rules of the NYC Commission on Human Rights

Discrimination is Prohibited Against Employees Providing Care in their Home

The Commission provides general and specific examples of employment discrimination based on caregiver status. For instance, an employer can violate this law with unfair treatment against an employee, such as refusing a promotion to an individual with a parent with dementia when they are otherwise qualified for the position.

Scope of Protection of State Law vs. NYC Law

The NYCHRL builds on protections found at the state level which offers protection against discrimination based on familial status, but the New York State law only protects parents. However, NYC’s law is broader and gives rights to individuals taking care of relatives in their home, including those married to or in a domestic partnership with a sick person. The rationale behind this is to make it harder for employers to force or pressure employees to put work issues ahead of family concerns. This is more in line with the modern view that a work/life balance is a priority.

Employers are prohibited from punishing employees who ask for flexibility to address their caregiving duties. And the law is designed to ensure that retaliation (in the form of denial of advancement or termination) doesn’t occur. An employee isn’t supposed to be excluded from being in the loop by being denied access to meetings or important discussions.  

Does Your Employer Discriminate Against Caregivers? Get Legal Help

Being a target of discrimination is very frustrating, especially when it’s your job at stake and you’re trying to care for another person. If you believe that your employer is taking adverse action against you because you have to help a relative, there is action you can take. They must comply with the law and you have the right to protect yourself against a violation. Talk to a MOWK New York employment attorney, who is well- versed in employment discrimination because they can help evaluate your case. Contact us right away to begin your next steps.