Employment Discrimination Protection for Caregivers

What new rights have been established to protect caregivers from employment discrimination?

For many years, caregivers of children, aging parents or disabled loved ones have experienced discrimination both at the workplace and in terms of obtaining employment. Under a new measure signed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on January 5, 2016, caregivers will finally have protections in place to prevent employment discrimination. This law will become effective on May 4, 2016.

Sensitive to the important need caregivers fill in their own homes and in the community at large, Mayor de Blasio referred to them during a ceremony at the Council Chambers in City Hall, as “unsung heroes” who “literally keep families together in times of distress.” He further stated, much to the satisfaction of those who have been meeting the challenges of employment discrimination while simultaneously fighting economic, emotional, and health challenges on the home front: “It’s critical that we give them the employment protection they deserve.”

New Yorkers have been protected for some time from discrimination based on race, religion, age or sexual orientation. Now, as a result of the passage of this new law proposed by Council woman Debi Rose, New Yorkers are also given “caregiver status” class protection under an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law.

This new protection means that would-be or current employers can’t discriminate against caregivers either during the hiring process or in terms of conditions of employment. Conditions of employment include work hours, pay raises and promotions.

Caregivers are defined as those who provide direct and ongoing care for children under the age of 18 or family members relying on them for daily assistance. The law protects employees who care for “covered relatives,” including biological, foster, step- and adopted children, or children for whom they are legal guardians, siblings (including half- and step-siblings), parents, grandchildren or grandparents, or children of the caregiver’s spouse or domestic partner. Since the definition of a “covered relative” is left open to the Commission’s interpretation, it may be expanded to include other family members at the Commission’s discretion.

By giving caregivers equal protection under the law, caregivers no longer have to fear losing their jobs because of the necessity of fulfilling essential family obligations. Caregivers now have the same rights to sue their employers for discrimination as do all other protected classes of employees.

If you are experiencing discrimination for any reason in the hiring process or in the workplace, you should contact a competent and compassionate employment law attorney to assist you.