Today, working families on Long Island are faced with numerous challenges, not the least of which is unfair treatment in the workplace. Nonetheless, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against workers who are having or planning to have children, as well as those with family responsibilities. Although state and federal laws are designed to protect employees, enforcing these rights requires the advice and counsel of a highly skilled attorney. Similarly, having proper legal representation can help employers meet their obligations under applicable employment discrimination laws.
Located in Garden City, Jonathan Tand and Associates is the premier employment discrimination law firm serving clients in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and throughout the state of New York. Our legal team routinely works with employees and employers to resolve familial and pregnancy discrimination-related issues and strives to ensure that all parties are treated fairly.
Family Responsibilities Discrimination
Family responsibilities discrimination is a form of workplace discrimination against employees who have caregiving responsibilities. This includes caring for a child, spouse, parent, or disabled family member, as well as being pregnant or the possibility of becoming pregnant. This form of discrimination may also involve “family status” discrimination in which married and unmarried couples are treated differently.
Although federal law does not expressly prohibit discrimination based on family responsibilities, employees may be protected by Title VII of the Civil RIghts Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Moreover, the New York City Human Rights Law recognizes “caregiver status” as a protected class. The definition of caregiver includes those who provide ongoing care to any disabled person who lives with the caregiver, such as a family member, spouse, domestic partner, or friend.
Finally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance recommending that employers develop policies regarding caregiver discrimination. The EEOC suggests adopting best practices such as promoting flexible work schedules and providing employees with reasonable leave to care for family members.
Somes examples of family responsibilities discrimination include:
- Firing or demoting pregnant employees when they become pregnant or plan to take maternity leave
- Denying promotions to pregnant women or highly qualified mothers with young children in favor of women without children or fathers who are less qualified
- Penalizing employees who take time off to care for elderly parents
- Giving poor performance reviews to justify terminating workers with caregiving responsibilities
Finally, Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees who have worked for an employer, with at least 50 employees, for at least one year, are eligible to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to care for a seriously ill relative or for the birth or adoption of a child. While employees are not specifically protected from discrimination under the FMLA, an employee who complains about discrimination after returning from a medical leave and is fired or treated unfairly may have grounds for a lawsuit based on retaliation.
Pregnancy discrimination occurs when a female employee or job applicant is treated unfairly because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) amended Title VII to prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy regarding any aspect of employment including hiring, firing, promoting, compensation, job assignments, layoffs, training, employee benefits and any term or condition of employment.
Since pregnancy discrimination is a form of gender discrimination under the PDA, employers are also prohibited from harassing women because of pregnancy. It is illegal to create a hostile work environment or one that leads to an adverse employment action, such as firing or demotion. Moreover, under the New York law, employers are required to give women who return to work after giving birth rest breaks for purposes of breastfeeding or pumping breast milk.
Under the PDA, employers are required to allow employees who are temporarily disabled because of a pregnancy to take disability leave, if other temporarily disabled workers are permitted to do so. Additionally, under the FMLA, new parents – both mothers and fathers, may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child.
New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law
The New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. On that date, workers will be eligible for 8 weeks of paid family leave to care for a close relative with a serious medical condition, or to bond with a newborn, newly adopted, or newly placed foster child. Initially, employees will be paid a rate of 50 percent of their average weekly wage – not to exceed 50 percent of the state’s average weekly wage.
Long Island Employment Law Attorney
While men and women alike can be affected by family responsibilities discrimination, these claims are difficult to prove. The experienced legal team at Jonathan Tand and Associates is dedicated to holding employers accountable and has a proven track record of protecting the rights of working families. Our attorneys also have a well-earned reputation for fighting for the rights of women who have encountered pregnancy discrimination.