Caregivers protected from discrimination by new law

By Patrick Donachie

Caregivers of ill or disabled family members living in New York City have new protections under the law, and most private and public employers will be barred from discriminating against someone because they have caregiving responsibilities outside the workplace.

Several Queens legislators, included Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), were strong supporters of the legislation.

“Imagine an employee with a parent at home who requires constant care and attention due to some mental or physical condition. And, the individual or agency that cares for the parent in the absence of the working child, serves notice that the hours of service have to change,” said Koslowitz, who co-sponsored the bill. “Should that employee lose their job because an employer does not want to change a work schedule enabling the employee to be at home at a different time?”

The new protections, which were signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio in January and enacted May 4, pertain to people caring for children under the age of 18, as well as those who care for parents, children, siblings, spouses, grandparents or grandchildren who have a disability. Any employer with four or more employees must follow the new regulations, and they protect both employees and job applicants.

Councilwoman Deborah Rose (D-Staten Island) was the primary sponsor of the bill. She said that many parents, children and loved ones often feared that their jobs were endangered due to their caregiving responsibilities.

“I sponsored this bill because I know that most workers have limited control over their work hours, leaving little margin of error in the event of a family emergency or childcare crisis,” she said. “And no one should be fired for fulfilling those responsibilities.”

Similar protections exist in Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia and several other cities. The caregiver law is an addition to the New York City Human Rights Law, which covers city residents who fall within 22 protected categories from various types of workplace and residential discrimination. The new law makes caregivers one of these protected classes.

Michael S. Arnold, an attorney with Mintz Levin, stressed in an article for the National Law Review that city employers must be studious in understanding how the new laws can conceivably affect their businesses.

“It’s one thing to make sure managers do not treat employees differently based on gender or parental status,” he wrote. “It’s another thing to make sure they realize that the law now goes one step further to protect anyone who has direct and ongoing caregiving responsibilities.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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