Various studies and reports have illustrated that since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of women have been without work. In many of these cases, this was due to the lack of child care options. So while the pandemic pushed family life to the forefront, it led many of these women workers to become caregivers without much legal protection in returning to the workplace.
Under federal law, there is not much in the way of caregiver protections in employment law. However, pending anti-discrimination bills may give New York caregivers more legal protections when caring for their children, aging parents, etc., once they are ready to get into the workplace, stay in the workplace, or apply for promotions.
This has led to a larger push for employers to be more open to offering protections and honoring these laws which protect caregivers.
Current Caregiver Legislation
Across the United States, current anti-discrimination laws only offer some protections to caregivers. In general, these laws only protect parents but in some cases, employees who care for elderly or disabled loved ones may also have some narrow protections.
For example, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are provisions that probit discrimination because someone is associated with a person with a disability and serves as that caretaker role.
Then, in February 2021, New York State Senator Robert Jackson introduced bill S.B. 5063. This would expand New York’s protections for caregivers and prohibit employers from discriminating against them. The measure passed the state Senate earlier this month but does not have a sponsor in the Assembly.
If passed, the bill would bridge a gap for employees who need to take time off to care for the elderly as the current law covers “familial status,” or those with minor children. However, the law does not require an employer to make “reasonable accommodations” for caregivers.
So, the new bill would define “care recipient” more broadly, by including a person who cannot “attend to his or her daily needs without the assistance or regular supervision of a caregiver.” In addition, it would require an employer to make some reasonable accommodations for an employee with family responsibilities.
The Impact of COVID-19
As more workplaces are reopening, many employees who have been working remotely are returning to a physical office setting. However, the New York City Commission on Human Rights has warned employers to be wary of any policies that include returning to the office that might have a “disparate impact” on some employees -such as women- unless it is mission-critical for a business to stay open.
But now, as much of New York awaits the passing of the bill, employers need to be aware of any employment policies that may make it discriminatory against certain employees.
Facing Discrimination Because of New York Caregiver Status? Call Brown Kwon & Lam.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for many of us. But if you’re a caregiver balancing it all, it may be unmanageable to return to a physical office setting while you must still care for loved ones. But your employer should not discriminate against you for occurrences outside of your control. If you are a victim of gender discrimination, retaliation, or wrongful termination because of your status as a caregiver, contact the New York employment attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam today.