WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today introduced legislation that expands protections for family caregivers from discrimination by their employers. The Protecting Family Caregivers from Discrimination Act would prohibit employers from firing, demoting, mistreating, refusing to hire, or taking other adverse employment action against workers who are caregivers for their loved ones. The bill would also prohibit employers from retaliating against a worker for seeking enforcement of these discrimination protections and it would establish a grant program to assist in preventing and combating such discrimination. Currently, many caregivers are ineligible for any form of protection under federal law and continue to face discrimination in the workplace due to their family caregiving responsibilities.
“The support and services family caregivers provide their loved ones are critical in maintaining their wellbeing,” Sen. Booker said. “Most family caregivers are employed and work to balance the responsibilities of their job while also providing that care. It is unacceptable that workers are being discriminated against simply because they have responsibilities outside of the workplace. Just about every working person has the potential to become a caregiver at some point in their life, and it is imperative that we create protections and provide the support needed to make sure that they can continue to care for their loved ones while they work.”
“This comprehensive and balanced bill will help employees with caregiving responsibilities do right by both their families and their employers—and will help employers tap the full talent pool,” Joan Williams, Founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law said.
“We applaud Senator Booker's progressive and prudent approach to ensure working family caregivers are viewed as a protected class,” C. Grace Whiting, President and CEO, and Michael Wittke, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, of the National Alliance for Caregiving said. “According to the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, San Francisco the number of cases of those discriminated against for ‘family responsibilities’ increased from 873 in the years between 1996 and 2005 to 3,223 in the years between 2006 and 2015. The population of caregivers in the U.S. is dramatically increasing and their financial health is at risk. Now is the time to ensure these vital contributors to our society have stronger protections in the workplace.”
“With more and more family caregivers having to juggle work with their caregiving responsibilities, they need protection from discrimination in the workplace,” John Schall, CEO, Caregiver Action Network said. “Senator Booker’s proposed legislation is an idea whose time has come. On behalf of tens of millions of working family caregivers, we strongly and enthusiastically call for enactment of the Protecting Family Caregivers from Discrimination Act of 2020.”
“The COVID-19 crisis has exposed how the care work performed primarily by women has long been, and continues to be, undervalued,” Emily Martin, Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice, the National Women’s Law Center said. “Women and mothers are disproportionately represented in the essential workforce, and they are being forced to put their own health and the health of their families at risk to perform these jobs, while shouldering increased caregiving responsibilities as schools and child care providers remain closed. The Protecting Family Caregivers from Discrimination Act is a much-needed measure that will protect caregivers from discrimination in the workplace. Crucially, the bill extends these protections beyond parents to include anyone caring for members of their chosen family. Supporting caregivers is a vital measure as we strive to create workplaces that work for all people.”
“We applaud Senator Booker for introducing the Protecting Family Caregivers from Discrimination Act of 2020,” Dina Bakst and Sherry Leiwant, Co-Founders and Co-Presidents of A Better Balance said. “At a time when families are facing the unprecedented weight of both needing to care for loved ones and to maintain their economic security, workers should not be penalized or discriminated against at work because they are a caregiver. Congress must protect caregivers and send the message that during this crisis and beyond, no worker should have to choose between the health of their family and their paycheck.”
“The coronavirus crisis has shone a light on an undervalued but indispensable role in our country – family caregiver. We thank Sen. Cory Booker for his leadership in introducing the Protecting Family Caregivers from Discrimination Act. The bill provides working people with protections against discrimination so no one is penalized, denied opportunities or fired for needing to provide care – this is a critical lifeline for individuals caring for sick parents, children or spouses during this time of crisis and beyond. The bill advances gender equity, as care work is still disproportionately performed by women. And it includes provisions we know are essential to ensure equitable caregiving policies that advance racial justice – an inclusive family definition, robust outreach and enforcement, and safeguards against retaliation,” said Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families.
“Many people with disabilities rely on family caregivers, something that has only increased as the pandemic has impacted the disability service system,” Bethany Lilly, Director of Income Policy, The Arc of the United States said. “Children with disabilities have lost services usually provided by schools and many adults with disabilities are suddenly without their usual routines and support professionals. COVID-19 has left all caregivers struggling to balance work and being there for their loved ones—it is incredibly important that caregivers be protected now and as we reopen.”
As of 2020, AARP found that 53 million Americans care for their sick loved ones and 61% of them work a full-time job. Also, according to a report done by WorkLife Law, between 2006 and 2016, family responsibilities discrimination cases increased 269 percent. It also found that six out of ten caregivers received a form of retribution by their employers once it was discovered that they were caregivers. Examples include employers cutting back their employee's work hours and/or giving out poor performance reviews.
Throughout his time in the Senate, Sen. Booker has worked on other legislation that supported family caregivers. In 2017, Booker worked with Rep. Pascrell to reintroduce the In-Home Caregiver Assessment Resources & Education (CARE) Act, which would provide the training and support caregivers need by establishing competitive grants to health care entities and community organizations to carry out family caregiver home visiting programs. These programs would allow providers to assess caregivers’ specific needs and help tailor training and resources to best serve the care recipient.
The legislation is endorsed by the Center for WorkLife Law, National Employment Law Project, the National Alliance for Caregiving, the Caregiver Action Network, Caring Across Generations, the National Women’s Law Center, A Better Balance, National Partnership for Women & Families, The Arc of the United States, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Full text of the bill is available here.