Working parents and caregivers have just been given legal protection in New York City.

Being someone's caregiver is like having a second job. So you shouldn't have to worry about losing your first.

In 2014, Kashawna Holmes was fired from her job at a senior companion care program in Washington, D.C., for taking time off to have her baby.

Due to complications, Holmes' doctor ordered her to go on bed rest nearly three months before her due date. Despite filling out the necessary paperwork, and despite D.C. having a law protecting pregnant workers on the job, Holmes found an email on her phone terminating her position.


Kashawna Holmes with her son. Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

"I was completely devastated, in shock. I felt that was supposed to be the happiest time, I was so excited about having my son,” she told the Washington Post. Instead, she had to seek help from a nonprofit and spend time and money on a lawsuit fighting for her rights.

Her employers stated that her one-year appointment to the position had ended, but Holmes knew there was funding for her position for the following year because she had prepared the audit herself.

Caring for someone else's well-being shouldn't come at the cost of your own. But for caregivers, it often does.

The fear of being fired is the unfortunate reality for millions of people who provide direct and ongoing care for their children or other family members.

Caregivers, the majority of whom are women, spend significant time tending to the needs of those who rely on them, like small children, disabled family members, or senior citizens who require home care.

Caring for someone else's well-being shouldn't come at the cost of your own. But for caregivers, it often does.

Holmes is one of the thousands of women every year who lose their jobs on maternity leave or to other caregiver duties.

A law protecting caregivers would have recognized the urgency and specific needs of Holmes' situation, and protected her. While some companies like Holmes' try to find ways around these laws, having them on the books gives unlawfully terminated employees the legal ability to fight back.

Thankfully, caregivers in New York City will soon get this protection.


A bill protecting caregivers is awaiting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's signature. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Lawmakers in New York City have recognized that when workers have more flexibility for their families, everyone benefits.

For example, instead of having to risk her job, a single mother could take necessary time off to care for her child — and herself — and be protected by the law. Or a man who works full time but lives with his elderly father who needs regular doctor visits and home care can take time off without being penalized to take his father to the doctor.

Also, as more and more baby boomers age and enter retirement, the amount of senior citizens requiring home care will grow rapidly.

The number of senior citizens in New York City is expected to increase by 35% in the next 20 years. Photo from iStock.

A new law passed on Dec. 16, 2015, will make caregivers a protected class in New York City.

New York City has already made efforts to protect the job rights of individuals regardless of race, sexual orientation, and age, and now caregivers can enjoy that same legal protection.

The law defines a caregiver as "a person who provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or a care recipient." It's good news, especially for women who do a disproportionate amount of caregiving (an estimated 66%). In fact, the bill is largely being touted as a victory for the progress of women.

This new law protects people's rights to spend time caring for their loved ones without having to worry about losing their jobs. The bill aims to make New York City a better place for women and for anyone dedicating their time to the well-being of someone else.

This is a positive step toward solving an important problem, especially for New York City.

In fact, the bill's opening paragraph says it best:

"In the city of New York, with its great cosmopolitan population, there is no greater danger to the health,morals, safety and welfare of the city and its inhabitants than the existence of groups prejudiced against oneanother and antagonistic to each other because of their actual or perceived differences."

Caregivers are New York City's mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. They shouldn't have to worry about losing their jobs while they are essentially doing a second job for free. Now, they don't have to. That's a good thing.

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