On March 14, 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance, titled, “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Caregiver Discrimination Under Federal Employment Discrimination Law,” provided an update to their COVID-19 “What You Should Know” webpage, and released a video guide that addresses discrimination against caregivers).
According to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Caregiver Discrimination guidance, discrimination based solely on caregiver status is not deemed illegal under the federal law. However, caregiver discrimination begins to cross the line of legality when a situation involves one or more additional protected classes. Some examples of those protected classes include:
- Sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity);
- National origin;
- Race or color;
- Age (40 or older);
- Disability; or
- Genetic information (such as family medical history).
- Association with an individual with a disability or on the race, ethnicity or other protected characteristic of the individual for whom care is being provided.
Furthermore, the EEOC’s COVID-19 What You Should Know guidance has been updated to include a section specific to “Caregivers/Family Responsibilities” (Section I). This newly added section aims to provide additional information about pandemic-related caregiver discrimination under the laws enforced by the EEOC and to provide clarity surrounding sex discrimination and other pandemic-related caregiver discrimination issues.
Next Steps for Employers
Employers are encouraged to review the updated guidance issued by the EEOC in order to remain up to date regarding any accommodation requests that may be made as a result of needing to act in a caregiver capacity. As always, employers are also encouraged to speak with their legal counsel regarding any such situations that may arise.