June 2, 2020

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June 01, 2020

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Employers Should Care About This: New York City’s Amendment on Caregiver Discrimination

The New York City’s Human Rights law (“NYCHRL”) prohibits employment discrimination against specified protected classes of employees and applicants including:

race, color, creed, age, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, partnership status, any lawful source of income, status as a victim of domestic violence or status as a victim of sex offenses or stalking, whether children are, may be or would be residing with a person or conviction or arrest record.

If this list wasn’t long enough, on May 4, 2016, NYCHRL will add “caregivers” to the protected classes including, anyone who provides ongoing medical  or “daily living” care for a minor, any disabled relative or disabled non-relative who lives in the caregiver’s household.

The law defines “caregiver” as a person who provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or a person with a disability who: (1) is a covered relative, or a person who resides in the caregiver’s household; and (2) relies on the caregiver for medical care or to meet the needs of daily living.

“Covered relatives” include children (adopted, biological or foster), spouses, domestic partners, parents, siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, children or parents of the caregiver’s spouse or domestic partner, or any individuals in a “familial relationship” with the caregiver.

The NYCHRL prohibits employers from discriminating against caregivers with respect to hiring, compensation, or the terms and conditions of employment. Thus, employers should not ask applicants about their status as a caregiver when making hiring decisions.

Importantly, employers may still (and should!) hold caregiver employees to the same attendance and performance standards as other employees.  Caregivers must still be able to perform the essential functions of their job, notwithstanding their role as a caregiver.

The law does not contain an affirmative requirement to accommodate caregivers, but employers should carefully consider any employee’s requests for time off due to caregiving responsibilities to ensure responses to such requests are being applied consistently and in accordance with any other potentially applicable laws. For example, caregiver employees may be eligible to take sick time under the New York City Earned Sick Time Act to fulfill caregiver duties for medical needs. In addition caregivers caring for medical needs may be entitled to Family and Medical Leave Act benefits.  Employers must also think about how their policies and practices affect caregivers and train managers on the new protections.

The New York Human Rights Commission has not yet issued formal guidance regarding this amendment. Until the Commission does so, the potential reach of the law remains unknown. 

Marc-Joseph Gansah is co-author of this article. 

©2020 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved.

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About this Author

Peter Panken, Epstein Becker Green, labor attorney, employment lawyer
Member of the Firm

Peter M. Panken is a Member of the Firm in the Labor and Employment practice, in the firm's New York office. He represents management in a wide range of industries on all aspects of employment and union-related matters. He has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© (1989 to 2015) in the fields of Employment Law—Management and Labor Law—Management, as well as in The International Who's Who of Business Lawyers, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the East, Who's Who Legal, and Who's...

212-351-4840
Nancy Gunzenhauser, Labor Employment Attorney, Epstein Becker Law Firm
Associate

NANCY L. GUNZENHAUSER is an Associate in the Labor and Employment practice, in the New York office of Epstein Becker Green.

Ms. Gunzenhauser:

  • Counsels clients on compliance with EEO laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, worker classification issues, and other federal, state, and local statutes governing the workplace
  • Advises employers in all facets of the employment relationship, from pre-employment considerations and hiring to terminations and post-employment restrictions
  • Prepares employment, consulting, and separation agreements
  • Audits employers’ employment policies, procedures, and handbooks to ensure compliance with applicable laws and best practices
  • Conducts workplace training seminars for employees, managers, and human resources personnel
  • Assists in defending clients in labor and employment-related litigation in a broad array of matters, such as discrimination, harassment, retaliation, breach of contract, and wage and hour disputes
212-351-3758