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Family responsibilities discrimination: Why is it increasing?

Conflicts between employers and employees with caregiving responsibilities show no sign of easing. Family responsibility discrimination covers complaints related to pregnancy, motherhood/fatherhood, and care of an aging or ill parent.

A recent study authored by the WorkLifeLaw Center at UC Hastings College of Law analyzed trends in employment discrimination lawsuits. It noted that FRD cases increased more than 200 percent from 1998 to 2012. Employees in every industry and at all levels have been affected.

The report includes interactions between supervisors and employees.

"How can you guarantee your child will not be sick?"

After the employer asked a Mom the above question, the next was "so, what is it? your job or your daughter?" In 64 percent of Americans household all the adults are in the paid workforce. How is it then possible to answer this type of question? It has to be both.

A man's request for paternity leave was met with the following denial by his employer, "we all have children we want to spend time with [and] this is a retail job." Men are the ones increasingly bringing discrimination claims. The review of 4,400 discrimination cases found that men brought 38 percent of FMLA cases. Claims related to paternity leave have also skyrocketed as more father's ask for time off to care for babies.

Some of the facts in the cases included in the report are astonishing. A man was out on a one-week FMLA paternity leave when a promotion became available. He was told he was not selected because he had a child. Later he missed several days to care for his sick child and was terminated for poor performance, excessive absenteeism and failure to follow company policy while on child leave.

Not only pregnancy discrimination anymore

There are still employers who will not hire pregnant women, but many of the behaviors are more subtle. A supervisor may deny a request to attend a required doctor appointment or fail to accommodate a call center employee who asks for additional bathroom breaks.

Once baby arrives, professional development opportunities may become scarce. A lactation room may be available, but require a 15-minute walk across a corporate campus. A bias that mothers as less committed to their jobs continues in many workplaces.

Pregnancy accommodation as well as lactation cases are on the increase. Pregnancy discrimination continues to be the most common type of FRD claim, but demographic patterns are changing. More employees will need to provide unpaid care for a child or adult at some point in their career. Eldercare will drive some of these changes.

How can you fight back?

Most supervisors realize that they cannot say certain things. As in the case facts above, poor performance is often added to an employment file to justify adverse actions. Separating out performance issues to expose discriminatory intent is not easy.

In these situations, you need the right attorney. At NachtLaw, we know how to present employment discrimination cases and will fight to ensure you receive the best possible outcome. Following a termination or other adverse employment action, speak with us to discuss your situation and learn about your rights.

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