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EEOC Issues New Guidance On Avoiding Caregiver Discrimination

by on
in Human Resources

In light of Father's Day this month, it's the perfect time to spotlight an emerging workplace issue: discrimination against those with caregiving responsibilities. Those whose first thought was, Wouldn't it have been more timely to highlight this issue around Mother's Day?, have just perfectly exemplified why this issue needs to be addressed. One form of caregiver discrimination is acting on the stereotype that men are the breadwinners and not the caregivers, and thus, are not entitled to the same considerations as mothers. Of course, there are plenty of other forms of discrimination against caregivers, which spurred the EEOC to issue new guidance near the end of May on Unlawful Disparate Treatment Of Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities.

 

Caregivers are not a protected class under state or federal employment laws. However, discriminating against caregivers can lead to violations of Title VII, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and comparable state laws. The first step in ensuring that caregiver discrimination does not rear its ugly head is to recognize its many forms.

 

Who can be a victim of caregiver discrimination? It's not just parents. Those who have caregiving responsibilities for an elderly parent or a dependent with a disability can also fall victim. Beware of falling into any one of these traps.

  • Regarding women with children as being less committed to their careers, so they are not hired, promoted, or given high-profile assignments.

  • Assuming women with children will have more attendance issues.

  • Viewing men who took time off from work in order to raise a child as less ambitious.

  • Assuming pregnant women cannot perform their jobs. Even a seemingly benevolent move, such as transferring a pregnant employee to a less strenuous job, can come back to bite you, if the move is involuntary and reduces the employee's pay or promotion opportunities, for example.

  • Lowering the performance appraisal of an employee who is the primary caregiver for an elderly parent, despite no drop in performance.

  • Refusing to hire an individual whose child has a disability due to concerns about absenteeism or productivity.

  • Harassing a worker due to his/her family status or association with an individual with a disability.

  • Refusing to give family leave to male employees as is given to female employees.

A Cornell University study further shows the prevalence of sex-based stereotypes in the workplace. Students were asked to make hiring decisions among equally-qualified candidates whose main differences were their gender and parental status. Result: Women with children were rated lower than all other groups (women without children, men without children, and men with children).

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