Family Responsibilities Discrimination

Although there is no one federal or state law prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on family status or caregiver responsibilities, there is a growing trend in the law that recognizes such decisions as unlawful. In recent years, courts have drawn on a tapestry of federal and state laws in declaring illegal many decisions based on an employee's family responsibilities, or stereotyped assumptions about those responsibilities.

For instance, in Michigan, the civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on marital status. Some local ordinances also prohibit discrimination based on parental status. The Family Medical Leave Act provides leave time to care for a family member with a serious health condition, and it prohibits workplace retaliation for doing so. In another significant move, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recently issued guidance to employers on the ways that discrimination against family caregivers may violate already existing laws which protect against gender and disability discrimination.

Many point out that the EEOC guidance is not new law at all but merely draws on well-established federal anti-discrimination statutes. For instance, discrimination against pregnant women has long been prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Similarly, workplace policies based on stereotypes regarding family care which disparately impact men and women will be illegal under that same provision. For example, if an employer allows for leave to care for children or parents to its female employees but not its male employees, this will be a violation of Title VII. In addition to Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination against employees who have a relationship or association with a disabled person. Whether new law or not, the EEOC guidelines make clear that the federal laws create a penumbra of rights that, taken together, make many forms of "family responsibilities" discrimination illegal.

Our attorneys at NachtLaw, P.C., have been at the forefront of the development of the law in this area. If you have been fired, demoted or had your work hours or pay cut, and you believe you may have a family responsibilities discrimination claim, our attorneys can help.

Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation in one of our Michigan or Ohio offices located in Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Traverse City and Toledo.

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