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Warn bosses: Don’t single out caregivers

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Being a boss is hard enough, but it’s especially difficult when un­­expected absences disrupt production schedules. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of managerial life.

That’s why you should remind supervisors that they must not take out their frustrations by retaliating against employees who miss work for legitimate reasons—such as having to care for a sick child.

Your management training sessions should include information on the FMLA, ADA and other laws that affect attendance. Warn against singling out for poor or unequal treatment of employees who use state and federal protections.

Recent case: Lisa, who is white, worked for the Philadelphia Police Department as a detective. Lisa’s daughter has special needs, which sometimes meant she had to miss work on short notice. She noticed that her white male supervisors didn’t criticize male officers—white or black—when they were absent due to child-care problems.

After complaining about the apparent bias, Lisa found herself working a different shift, missing out on a training program that could have meant a promotion and being criticized for absences and tardiness when others were not.

She sued, alleging various forms of discrimination, including race and sex bias, as well as a hostile work environment and retaliation.

The police department argued that nothing that happened to Lisa was dire enough to constitute dis­­crimi­­na­­tion, harassment or re­­tali­­a­­tion. The court disagreed and sent the case to trial. (Salvato v. Smith, et al., No. 13-2112, ED PA, 2013)

Final note: Supervisors who voice antiquated beliefs about who should care for children can create potential liability. Even a single comment about working mothers and the effect of their child-care responsibilities on work may spur a lawsuit.

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