We wonder whether New York State will follow the lead of New York City which on December 16, 2015 amended its municipal law to make it illegal for an employer to terminate, refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against an employee because of her actual or perceived status as a family caregiver. As a result, in NYC, being a caregiver now becomes a protected class.
In NYC, employers cannot treat a caregiver employee any differently than another employee. A caregiver is an employee who provides direct and ongoing care for a child under 18 or another care recipient. A care recipient is someone with a disability who relies on the caregiver for medical care or to meet their needs of daily living, and is the caregiver’s (1) child, even if an adult; (2) domestic partner; (3) parent; (4) sibling; (5) grandchild or grandparent; (6) spouse’s or domestic partner’s child or parent; or (7) houseshold resident.
Caregiver discrimination could be claimed when an employer refuses to hire or promote someone, pays her less than peers, or treats her differently. An example of different treatment is permitting alternative work arrangements for some employees, but not for caregivers, under the assumption that caregivers aren’t as committed as other employees.
Why should employers outside of NYC care? This NYC development signals a trend that may be embraced by other cities or by the State Legislature over time. It pays to consider how your management treats employees. Indeed, employers in New York are well-advised to stay abreast of possible changes that may be coming down the road.