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Beware bias against child-rearing dads

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Here’s a heads-up about a possible new form of sex discrimination litigation. A father who can’t work overtime because he has child-care responsibilities may have a case if he can show that mothers were treated more favorably than fathers when it comes to flexible schedules. So ruled a federal court in New York.

Recent case: When Frank’s youngest child was born, he asked his em­­ployer to reduce his work schedule from 40 hours per week to just 32. That allowed him to take over some child-care responsibilities at home.

The schedule worked well for four years. But then the employer informed Frank he would have to work a minimum of 40 hours per week, plus overtime as needed. Frank discussed the matter with his wife and countered with an offer to take a pay cut and forgo health insurance in order to keep his old schedule. His supervisor refused to even consider it—and fired him on the spot.

Frank sued, alleging sex, marital-status and familial-responsibility discrimination.

The court said that his claim fell into a category called “sex-plus” discrimination, and that he might have a case if he amended his complaint to clearly show that mothers with child-care respon­­sibilities were allowed to work reduced schedules while Frank, as a father and husband, was not. (DeFranco v. Ametek Ameron, et al., No. 12-CV-670, ED NY, 2013)

Final note: Remind super­­visors and managers that they must be aware of unintentional discrimination based on preconceived notions about what is appropriate behavior for men and women—or, in this case, fathers and mothers. Traditional family roles work great for many employees, but they shouldn’t be prerequisites for working in your organization. Don’t superimpose stereotypes on employees who choose different lifestyles.

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