Executive Summary: New York City employers should be aware of local laws that directly affect a company’s hiring and termination practices, including a recent one that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on “caregiver status.”

Although a new business-friendly administration is set to take over at the federal level next year, employers should not overlook more protective state and local laws, including the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). The NYCHRL applies to any employer with four or more employees (a count that includes unpaid interns as well as certain independent contractors) and prohibits, among other things, employment discrimination. Several key distinctions set the NYCHRL apart from Title VII and its state employment discrimination counterpart, the New York State Human Rights Law, including the fact that the NYCHRL is more liberally construed by courts and allows for greater potential recovery of punitive damages.

Another important difference? “Caregiver status” is now a recognized characteristic protected from employment discrimination. As of May 4, 2016, it became illegal for NYC employers to make employment decisions based on the fact that an employee is a caregiver.

Who Is a Caregiver? Any person who “provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or a care recipient.” See NYC Admin. Code 8-102(30)(a).

Who is a Care Recipient? The NYCHRL defines “care recipient” broadly. It includes an individual with a disability who (1) is a “covered relative, or a person who resides in the caregiver’s household” and (2) “relies on the caregiver for medical care or to meet the needs of daily living. This could be a spouse, a child, a grandparent, a sibling or “any other individual in a familiar relationship with the caregiver as designated by the rules of the [New York Human Rights] Commission.” See NYC Admin. Code § 8-102(30)(c).

In addition to updating employee handbooks and training as to “caregiver status,” NYC employers should carefully review any employment action to ensure that this protected characteristic is not the basis of any adverse employment decision.

This law joins other recent amendments to the NYCHRL, such as the Fair Chance Act, which prohibits NYC employers from asking about the criminal record of job applicants before making a job offer, and the Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act, which makes it illegal for some NYC employers to check applicants’ credit history when making employment decisions.

Bottom Line: Employers operating in NYC should be aware of the myriad of local employment discrimination laws and ensure that their application process and employment policies, including handbooks, comply with the NYCHRL.