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Don’t unwittingly discriminate against dads

by on
in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employers have succeeded in be­­com­­ing more aware of avoiding discriminatory practices against women in the workplace. But some employers might be inadvertently overlooking the workplace rights of fathers, which are equally important.

Unlawful disparate treatment goes both ways. Assumptions about working fathers and other male caregivers have sometimes led employers to deny male employees opportunities that have been provided to working women or to subject men who are primary caregivers to harassment or other disparate treatment.

More fathers have been filing em­­ployment lawsuits than ever before, particularly under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). So it’s essential to avoid relying on outdated gender stereotypes and to treat male caregivers fairly. Here are some traps the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Com­­mis­­sion (EEOC) warns em­­ployers to watch out for:

Illegal: Denying male employees any type of leave (except pregnancy-related leave) that is granted to female employees.

Example: A male employee re­quested unpaid family leave for two months for the purpose of caring for his newborn son. His manager denied the request. When the employee pointed out that female colleagues had been granted unpaid childcare leave, the manager insisted that childcare leave was meant for women only.

Illegal: Allowing female care­­givers to use flexible work arrangements, but not male caregivers.

Example: A male employee re­quested reassignment to a part-time position so that he could help care for his 2-year-old daughter when his wife returned to work. His supervisor rejected the request, saying that the department had only one open slot for a part-timer, which was reserved in case it was needed by one of the many female employees in the department.

Illegal: Holding childcare-related employment gaps against male applicants, but not female applicants.

Example: The hiring decision was down to two applicants, one male and one female. The manager thought the male applicant had better qualifications, but doubted his professional commitment since the applicant had explained a two-year employment gap on his résumé by proudly declaring that he had stayed at home to care for his young son while his wife worked full time. The female applicant had taken some time off from her career to care for her child, too, but the manager found that more acceptable for a woman. On that basis, he offered the job to the female applicant.

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