Young mother with toddler child working on the computer from home at night..The coronavirus pandemic has rapidly created new and previously unforeseen childcare issues for an untold number of employees. Almost overnight, millions of employees are now working remotely from their homes—at least for those who are fortunate to be in professions where that is a viable option. At the same time, childcare options have become more limited, if available at all—schools are shuttering, childcare facilities are closing and domestic workers such as nannies are appropriately cautious about leaving their homes. As a result, many parents find themselves abruptly thrust into handling two full-time jobs at the same time: their usual day jobs and, now, childcare. Among the numerous legal questions this unprecedented situation presents is whether, and to what extent, working parents are entitled to accommodations to handle these circumstances, and whether they are protected against discrimination in the event of layoffs or otherwise.

Consider the following scenario: Maya is an investment banker in New York City and typically works a 10-hour day. Maya has a nanny care for her infant daughter while she is at the office. During this pandemic, Maya is forced to work at home and her nanny is unable to help. Maya now has to handle a 10-hour/day job using less-than-ideal remote access technology—her remote desktop does not operate as smoothly as her office computer; she has one screen on her home computer as opposed to three in her office; she does not have direct access to her assistant or her other staff; she does not have the full panoply of office supplies and other corporate-level printing and copying, etc. With all these hindrances, Maya must work 12 hours to accomplish the same work she previously did in 10. On top of that, she must care for her infant daughter all day, which conservatively involves approximately eight hours of direct, hands-on attention. For Maya to cover her responsibilities (minus any time for even a short break), she must work a 20-hour day. And, she must do this every day, indefinitely, until the circumstances of this pandemic change. Maya needs an accommodation to handle all of these responsibilities, but she is worried her employer will not look kindly upon such a request. Moreover, she expects her employer may soon downsize and is concerned the accommodation request could increase the likelihood she will be let go. What are Maya’s legal rights in this scenario?

Caregiver and Parental Status Are Protected Categories in New York

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