The role of being a caregiver for someone who needs intensive assistance is a deeply demanding role that can cut a person off of her or his personal needs. Part of the rights of a caregiver has to do with the basic attention to personal needs. These basic rights may or may impact on the role legally, but they are very important. Every year, family caregivers provide about 37 billion hours of unpaid labor to help loved ones or others. This amounts to about $450 billion dollars, even at minimum wage levels.
An Informal Bill of Rights.
The Caregiver Bill of Rights, proposed by the AARP lists the basic requirements of self-care for people who devote themselves to caring for others.
- You have the right to take care of yourself. It’s like using an oxygen mask on an airliner. You put the mask on yourself first before helping others put it on. You have the right to resist the excessive demands of others.
- You have the right to seek help from others, even though the person you are caring for may object. You have the right to react to your own limitations in terms of strength and endurance.
- You have the right to maintain a private life of your own outside of your caregiving. When you have done as much as you can for the person you are caring for, you have a right to do things just for yourself.
- You have a right to show ordinary human emotions in the course of your work, to get angry, depressed, and to express feelings.
- You have a right to reject the attempts of friends, family, or others to manipulate you.
- You have a right to receive and to offer affection, consideration, forgiveness, and acceptance from those you care for.
- You have a right to take pride in the contributions you make and the challenges you have overcome in meeting the needs of someone you care for.
Government Legal Protections.
IN 2017 the federal government signed into law the AARP-backed bill, the Recognize, Assist, Include, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act into law. The law directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create an advisory council that would recommend ways to support family caregivers. The recommendations are due to be developed this year. They are expected to address financial workplace, and respite care issues and other ways to support caregivers.
Federal laws protecting caregivers refer to unpaid caregivers whose responsibilities are to family members. Federal protections generally represent the basic minimum of protection. State laws can be stronger.
Family caregivers, those who work to care for family members or significant others without pay are protected under provisions of federal anti-discrimination laws. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects women and men who need to take leave to care for a child or family member. The leave is not paid but it protects the employment of an employee who needs it for up to twelve weeks per year for each family member. The law requires that group health benefits be maintained during the leave. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal to discriminate against an employee who provides care to disabled family members. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prevents discrimination on the basis of gender discrimination in the granting of leave for caregivers. Caregiver leave has to be granted without discrimination to either gender. Similarly, The Age Discrimination in Employment requires that family caregiver leave be given where needed regardless of the age of the employee.
Employers are not always willing to give caregivers the schedule flexibility and the short-term leave they need. Employees who need greater workplace flexibility are often terminated. If this happens because the employer makes assumptions about the employee’s ability to function on the job because of her or his need for leave, talking to a lawyer about relevant laws and legal protection can help.
Aiman-Smith & Marcy will pursue all available remedies to correct unlawful discrimination in the granting of leave or flexibility for family caregivers. Please contact us to learn more.