“Family” Discrimination-A New Area of Concern
Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said it would make “Family responsibility discrimination” an enforcement priority. On the face of it, it appears to be a new protected class category when in fact it is not. The EEOC uses the term as a catch-all for bias claims filed under sex-discrimination laws, if gender is involved in the adverse action. The simple truth of it means that a company/manager is treating women with children differently than men with children.
The EEOC looks for specific behaviors such as:
1. Asking female job applicants about their family yet they do not ask male applicants (an interviewer should never make any inquiry in this area).
2. Giving women with children less-favorable assignments than their male counterparts.
3. Treating women with children less favorably than childless women.
4. Being hard on men who take time off to care for their children.
5. Denying men’s request for family-related leave while approving similar requests made by women.
The other area of concern has to do with caregiving responsibilities. An increasing portion of caregiving goes to the elderly, and this is a trend that is likely to continue as the Baby Boomer population ages. This is a subtle area. Our parents are living longer and may begin to have issues be it physical, or mental. With the large population of Baby Boomers who are continuing to work (longer) they will have the responsibility for “eldercare.” As eldercare becomes more common, workers in the new emerging “sandwhich generation,” (those workers between the ages of 30 and 60) will have to face the responsibilities of caring for their children and their parents.
The EEOC is also looking at the fact that such caregiving activities are more disproportionately associated with women and may even more pronounced with women of color which adds in another protected class.
In general, employers need to be aware that these areas, some obvious and some not so obvious, need to be considered when an employee is requesting time off. We understand that an employer has a business to run, however, these are the types of issues that can cause unecessary liability.