Effective May 4, 2016, a new statute prohibits most employers in New York City from discriminating against any individual because he or she gives care, or is perceived as giving care, for a minor child, a disabled relative, or a disabled household member.
Specifically, on January 5, 2016, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed, into law, Local Law 1 of 2016 (“Local Law 1” or the “new Law”). On December 16, 2015, the New York City Council, by a vote of 49 to 0, unanimously had approved Local Law 1.
The new Law, which takes effect on May 4, 2016, prohibits businesses in New York City with four or more employees from firing or refusing to hire an individual, and from discriminating against an individual in compensation or in the terms and conditions of employment, because of the individual’s actual or perceived “caregiver status.”
For Local Law 1’s purposes, the term ” ‘caregiver’ ” means “a person who provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or a care recipient.”
The new Law defines a ” ‘care recipient’ ” as “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.”
In turn, Local Law 1 defines a “covered relative” as “a caregiver’s child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchild or grandparent, or the child or parent of the caregiver’s spouse or domestic partner, or any other individual in a familial relationship with the caregiver as designated by the rules of the [New York City] Commission [on Human Rights].”
Under the new Law, a ” ‘ minor child’ ” is a child under the age of 18.
Local Law 1 amends sections 8-101, 8-102, and 8-107 of the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 – 8-131.
Workers or job applicants whose employers or prospective employers discriminate against them based on their caregiver status, like employees aggrieved by other discriminatory practices made unlawful by the New York City Human Rights Law, may sue their employers for and may recover, among other remedies, non-capped compensatory damages, punitive damages, and, if they prevail and at the court’s discretion, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. See N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-502(a), 8-502(g).
Local Law 1 resembles, but is broader than, New York State Assembly Bill 7317 / Senate Bill 4 (“State Assembly Bill 7317”). The latter bill, which took effect on January 19, 2016, forbade businesses in New York State with four or more employees from discharging from employment or refusing to employ an individual, and from discriminating against an individual in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because the individual is pregnant, has a child, or is in the process of obtaining custody of a child.
New York City’s new Law, unlike State Assembly Bill 7317, prohibits companies from firing or refusing to hire an individual, and from discriminating against an individual in compensation or in the terms and conditions of employment, because he or she gives care for, among others, a disabled relative who has attained the age of majority (18), or a disabled household member who has attained the age of majority.
Interestingly, an earlier version of the bill that became Local Law 1 not only prohibited employers in New York City from discriminating against employees because of their caregiver status, but also required employers in the City reasonably to accommodate the needs of employees who are caregivers. Compare N.Y. City Human Rights Law, N.Y. City Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a), 8-107(15) (requiring employers in New York City reasonably to accommodate the needs of employees with disabilities). However, the provision of the bill requiring require businesses reasonably to accommodate the needs of workers who are caregivers was stricken before Local Law 1’s passage.
Take-Aways for Employers
Employers in New York City must review and modify their present workplace policies, employee handbooks, and job advertisements to make clear that the employers do not discriminate in hiring, compensation, or the terms and conditions of employment based on an applicant’s or an employee’s caregiver status. So, too, employers in the City should train supervisors and managers concerning the employer’s and the trainees’ obligations not to base employment decisions on a worker’s or a job applicant’s caregiver status.