Recent Amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law Protects Employees With Caregiver Status

Yarelyn Mena

On January 5, 2016, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed Intro. 108-A, which expands the list of protected characteristics under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to include “caregiver status.” The NYCHRL currently prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of a number of protected characteristics, such as age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender (including gender identity and sexual harassment), disability, marital status, partnership status, sexual orientation, alienage, and citizenship status. The amendment is aimed at protecting the City’s family caregivers, who provide an estimated $31 billion of unpaid care per year for an increasingly large population of children, the disabled and elderly people. Mayor de Blasio expressed the importance of this legislation stating, “Caregivers are our unsung heroes. They literally keep families together. It’s critical we give them the employment protection they need and deserve.” Carmelyn P. Malalis, the New York City Human Rights Commissioner agreed, saying:

No one should be discriminated against because of their status as a caregiver. Intro. 108 guarantees that every parent and family member caring for a loved one receives the same rights and opportunities in the workplace as everyone else. The Commission will vigorously enforce this much-needed protection and looks forward to working with the Mayor’s Office and the New York City Council to further advance the rights of caregivers under the law so that every New Yorker can live and work free from discrimination.

Under the new provision, “caregiver” is “a person who provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or care recipient.”  “Care recipient” means “a person with a disability who: (i) is a covered relative, or a person who resides in the caregiver’s household; and (ii) 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. Thus, “covered relatives,” as it is defined, is broad and may include almost any other member of an employee’s family. Employers and employees alike must pay attention to the changes that this new provision of the NYCHRL will bring.

This amendment to the NYCHRL goes into effect on May 4, 2016. Under the NYCHRL, victims of workplace discrimination, harassment or retaliation may receive compensatory damages, including back pay and emotional distress, punitive damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to the prevailing party.

If you have been discriminated against for being a caregiver, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.