Finding a manageable work/life balance is something many of us struggle with a great deal–and the stakes only get higher for Americans who work full-time and have caregiving responsibilities at home. Whether that means taking care of children, a sick partner, or an elderly loved one, holding down an ambitious career while still taking good care of those that depend on you at home can be a daunting challenge.
While I’d like to be able to tell you that employers are universally understanding of their employees that struggle with juggling a full-time job while being a caregiver, we all know this simply isn’t true. As if layoffs due to our ailing economy weren’t bad enough, employers discriminating against employees based on their caregiving responsibilities is on the rise–and it has a name: Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD).
Before you stop reading this post because you’re thinking “such a wonky-sounding term can’t possibly affect me,” I beg you to take another few moments and keep on reading. Family Responsibilities Discrimination can occur in any number of unfortunate–but very real–workplace circumstances. Such as….
- when a new mother is denied a promotion NOT based on her job performance, but because it is assumed she will no longer be as committed to work once baby enters the picture.
- when a man’s employer refuses him paternity leave because “his wife should do it”
- when a worker is fired for not meeting work goals while he is on legally protected family and medical leave to take care of a sick parent.
A new report by the Center for WorkLife Law’s Stephanie Bornstein & Robert J. Rathmell provides us with information about additional worker protections under local laws about which most people are not aware–like the ones described above. Take this true situation cited in the report, for example:
In Chicago, a single mother of two who filed a complaint for parental status discrimination under the city’s local ordinance was recently awarded over $300,000 in damages. The woman had been fired from her job as a medical services salesperson after rescheduling a meeting because her daughter was ill.
The report finds that while no federal law and only a few state laws expressly prohibit discrimination against working caregivers, at least 63 local governments in 22 states do. The findings also demonstrate that while the scope of local laws may seem limited, their impact can be pretty significant.
Working caregivers shouldn’t end up unemployed because of their responsibilities at home–but the fact is that they sometimes do. While we may not be able to legislate employer attitudes, we can take responsibility for knowing our rights. Read the report here: “Entitled Caregivers as a Protected Class?: The Growth of State and Local Laws Prohibiting Family Responsibilities Discrimination.”
For more information about each local law collected in the survey, visit www.worklifelaw.org/pubs/LocalFRDLawsDetail.html.
Additional findings of the report can be found after the break.
- The sizes and types of employers (whether public or private) covered by local FRD laws vary, but most apply to private employers, with some covering businesses as small as those with only one employee.
- While the vast majority of states have no explicit protections against FRD, laws or regulations in Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia are the exceptions to the rule.
- States including Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have the most protections under local FRD laws, increasing the likelihood that a business or an employee in that state may be covered.
Local governments that have explicitly banned Family Responsibilities Discrimination also include:
• Tucson, Arizona • Atlanta, Georgia • Cook County, Chicago & Champaign, Illinois • Boston, Cambridge & Medford, Massachusetts • St. Paul, Minnesota • Kansas City, Missouri • Tacoma, Washington • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
*This post originally appeared in the SEIU Blog on December 17, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.
About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.