The COVID-19 pandemic has hit working mothers harder than any other group. With the closings of schools and remote working, many working mothers found themselves forced out of the labor pool. As early as April 2020, economists coined the term “she-cession” to describe the pandemic-fueled economic downturn’s effect on the unemployment rate among women.
One such woman was Rachel Tarantul, who worked for the City of New York. Like so many others, Rachel was unable to go to work following the shutdown of New York City schools on March 19, 2020, as she had to manage remote learning for two children and she lost daycare for her youngest. Although Rachel could have performed her duties remotely, as another employee already did, she was not granted a reasonable accommodation to work from home. Rachel was deemed “AWOL” and ultimately terminated because she could not go to work.
The attorneys at Schwartz Perry & Heller did not think that Rachel should be fired just because the City would not let her perform her duties remotely and took her case to court. The firm argued that the New York City Human Rights Law, which protects caregivers, should require employers to accommodate working parents like Rachel, especially when others are already receiving that same accommodation. The City challenged Rachel’s lawsuit and moved to dismiss it, defending the City’s right to force employees back to work, regardless of their childcare needs.
We are proud to announce that on January 18, 2022, Justice David B. Cohen of the New York County Supreme Court denied the City’s motion to dismiss and permitted Rachel’s case to proceed. This decision paves the way for other caretakers like Rachel to argue that their employers should accommodate them by, among other things, letting them work remotely.
Schwartz Perry & Heller is proud to be able to stand up for the rights of working mothers, who have been so hard hit during the pandemic.