Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have had to take on additional obligations to care for their loved ones. While cases may have gone down and certain restrictions have been lifted, many employees are still feeling the impact of the pandemic. Employees may need to stay home with children or other family members to care for them while they recover from COVID-19 or quarantine along with their household. For some, these obligations could create issues with their employers and result in them experiencing workplace discrimination and harassment.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently provided new guidelines regarding caregiver discrimination and the obligations employees may have during the pandemic.
What is Caregiver Discrimination?
Caregiver discrimination is different from other forms of discrimination prohibited by federal laws. Unlike characteristics like race, gender, and religion, being a caregiver is not considered a protected class on its own under the federal laws the EEOC enforces. However, the EEOC may consider it to be employment discrimination when a caregiver is discriminated against for their obligations when it’s based on characteristics associated with a protected class. This means that caregiver discrimination could violate federal laws if it is based on the employee’s sex, age, religion, race, color, national origin, disability, or genetic information.
For example, it may be considered employment discrimination if female employees are treated less favorably due to the assumption that they may be expected to care for their children with COVID-19.
It can also be considered illegal employment discrimination if the discrimination is based on a protected class of the person the employee is caring for. For example, an employee cannot be discriminated against for providing pandemic-related care to a loved one with a disability when the discrimination is based on the loved one’s disability.
Are Caregivers Entitled to Reasonable Accommodations?
Many employers have offered accommodations throughout the pandemic, such as remote working and flexible schedules. While these may be beneficial for those with caregiving obligations in their personal lives, the EEOC stated that it doesn’t generally require employers to provide employees with caregiving responsibilities with reasonable accommodations. However, this doesn’t mean that employees are never entitled to time off to care for their loved ones should they have COVID-19. In some cases, employees may be entitled to time off to care for a sick loved one under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
New York State and City Familial and Marital Status Discrimination
While federal law does not necessarily consider caregivers to be a protected class, New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) does make it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on their familial status, even when it’s unrelated to the pandemic. New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) also prohibits discrimination based on marital status. The employment discrimination lawyers at Brown Kwon & Lam can help if you’re being discriminated against based on your familial or marital status.
Contact an NYC Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today
If you’re an employee in New York City, there are various federal, state, and local laws that may protect you if you’re discriminated against for caring for your family members. At Brown Kwon & Lam, we’re committed to helping employees experiencing various types of employment discrimination.
If you suspect that you’re being illegally discriminated against in the workplace, contact us today for help.