As we know, an employer may not discriminate against an employee for their disability, race, national origin, age or religion in any state under the federal laws. Specifically, in New York City, there are even more statutes that offer additional protection to New York City employees, such as offering protection for unemployment discrimination or offering additional sick pay leave. Currently, New York City is considering an additional basis of protection for discrimination in the workplace: caregiver status. This bill, if passed, would add a person’s caregiver status onto the list of reasons that an employer cannot discriminate against, and it would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees with familial obligations.
Since there are many single parents and households that require both parents to work, there is a large percentage of the working population that are often unable to meet the demands of their job and home life, whether their home life consists of caring for small children or elderly family members in need of care. Proponents of this bill passing argue that due to changing demographics of the working class, the laws should also change.
At the hearing for the New York City bill, one parent testified she lost her job because she was switched for a regular day shift to irregular night hours and could therefore not get night-time care for her 11 year old child. Despite requesting reasonable accommodations, such as working a consistent night schedule, or bringing her daughter to work, all of her requests were denied and she was indeed terminated. Another testified that she was terminated after returning from her second maternity leave and was told she was incapable of performing her job duties because she had “multiple small children.”
Gale Brewer, who is the main supporter of the bill in the City Council and is now the Manhattan borough president, stated: “Years ago, you know, before everything was so corporate, there was maybe more human kindness between an employer and the workers,” she said. “A lot of our growth is in corporate retail, chain stores, and they don’t have that personal touch. So we have to mandate it legislatively.”
The irony of course, is that these mothers and caregivers who testified required jobs to sustain their families but have lost their jobs because it came to choosing between their employment or caring for their children – an option many would argue should not even be considered a “choice.” Although this bill is yet to be passed, it is yet another step in the right direction of creating workplace equality. Stay tuned for updates.