The EEOC just issued guidelines stating that one’s status as a family member can’t be considered in employment decisions.
The agency says the guidelines address “family-responsibility discrimination.” They draw on earlier theories about so-called “gender-plus” discrimination.
As this case shows, punishing a female employee because of her role as a mother may be illegal sex discrimination.
Recent case: Sherry Towers was a postdoctoral research associate in physics at the State University of New York (SUNY), who left the university because she claimed it made her life unbearable.
She charged that SUNY denied her, threatened her with a poor evaluation and withdrawal of a tenure-track offer and assigned her so much work that she could never complete it all.
The court ordered a trial. Towers must prove that her status as a pregnant woman and a mother motivated SUNY to overwork her and refuse to recommend her for tenure. Given the new EEOC guidance, she may succeed. (Towers v. StateUniversity at Stony Brook, No. 04-5243, ED NY, 2007)