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Family Responsibilities Discrimination: Do You Have a Claim?

Family Responsibilities Discrimination: Do You Have a Claim?

Family responsibilities discrimination occurs when an employee suffers discrimination in the workplace due to their actual or perceived responsibility to care for family members.

The family responsibilities that are generally involved in this discrimination include caring for an ill or disabled spouse or child, being pregnant or even having the potential of getting pregnant, and caring for an aging parent. While family responsibilities discrimination disproportionately impacts women, men can also be victims of discrimination, being harassed, paid less, terminated from employment, and other adverse employment actions.

If you believe you have been a victim of family responsibilities discrimination, an experienced employee rights lawyer can provide answers to your legal questions and assistance in seeking compensation for the harm that the discrimination caused.

Types of Scenarios That Give Rise to a Family Responsibilities Discrimination Claim

Some of the common scenarios that occur in workplaces throughout California and Washington that constitute family responsibilities discrimination include:

  • Firing an employee for becoming pregnant or planning to take maternity leave
  • Placing mothers in job roles that are considered less high-powered and/or lower-paying and offer little room for advancement under the belief that motherhood would prevent them from assuming the tasks of a more demanding role
  • Asking a prospective employee during an interview if they are married or have children
  • Making jokes or otherwise harassing or embarrassing a worker due to their pregnancy or parental status
  • Fabricating infractions to justify dismissing an employee due to their family responsibilities
  • Failing to promote pregnant women or those with small children
  • Promoting single men over women who are engaged or married because male workers cannot become pregnant
  • Failing to provide working parents with the same flexibility in scheduling as that given to workers who are not parents
  • Penalizing workers who take time off to care for ill family members or aging parents

What Are the Laws Against Family Responsibilities Discrimination?

Nearly half of the nation’s workforce is female. A quarter of families are providing care and services for aging parents. Ten percent of the U.S. labor force cares for aging parents and children. Despite this, no federal or California laws specifically aimed at preventing discrimination against family responsibilities. There are, however, several laws in place that protect these workers, including:

  • Title VII: The most common law under which family responsibilities discrimination claims are filed. It requires the claimant to prove that the employer took adverse action based on their perceived societal roles for men and women.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Claims under this law occur when an individual faces negative employment actions for taking FMLA-protected leave. The employee must be eligible for FMLA-protected leave to file a claim under FMLA. Eligibility is gained through a certain period of employment, such as one year.
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA): State-specific legislation that makes provisions for Californians who need time off work to attend to family care obligations such as tending to children, elderly or sick family members. You may apply for leave under CRFA to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child or for tending to your own health needs. This law may make claims if employees face repercussions after taking time off.
  • Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): Family responsibilities discrimination can be addressed under this law. If the claim involves discrimination against a worker who has a family member, such as a small child, with special needs at home, requiring the employee to miss work from time to time or to need a flexible schedule.
  • California Fair Employment and Housing Act: Under this California law, workers who need to take leave for family and medical care are protected. Workers are also protected against harassment and discrimination in the workplace based on characteristics such as marital status and gender.
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA): This law also addresses family responsibilities discrimination if an employee is terminated due to their relationship with someone with special needs under the fear that these special needs will place a burden on the workplace health benefit plan.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act: This is an amendment to Title VII that was specifically designed to address discrimination against female workers who are pregnant or who may become pregnant.

Stereotypes That Lead to Family Responsibilities Discrimination

Many longstanding stereotypes provide the kind of misguided rationale that leads to this type of discrimination, including:

  • Men do not and will not have significant caregiving responsibilities that will cause them to miss work.
  • Women would prefer to have a less stressful job that allows them to spend more time at home with their children than at work.
  • Female workers’ caregiving responsibilities will prevent them from being able to handle the rigors of a fast-paced or demanding work environment.

In addition to implementing laws, we must address societal attitudes and misconceptions to effect longstanding change.

If You Believe You Have Been the Victim of Family Responsibilities Discrimination…

Unfortunately, many employers do not believe there is anything wrong with defining job responsibilities based on gender, creating an environment destined for high legal costs and high staff turnover. Suppose you think you’ve been the victim of family responsibilities and discrimination. In that case, our experienced employee rights attorneys can help you understand the process of seeking compensation for the financial and emotional losses you have experienced.

Let’s talk about your case. Contact us today for your free consultation.

Author Bio

Michael Malk is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Malk Law Firm, a Seattle employee rights law firm he started in 2007. With more than 20 years of experience practicing law, he has dedicated his career to representing clients throughout California and Washington in a wide range of legal areas, including unpaid wages, sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and other employee rights matters.

Michael received his Juris Doctor from the University of California— Davis School of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California, the State Bar of Washington, and the American Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named as one of the “Top Attorneys in Southern California” by Los Angeles Magazine in 2018 and being selected as a Super Lawyer for six consecutive years.

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