As most people know, the FMLA protects employees who need to take leave from work either for their own medical condition or to care for others. Under the statute, employers are required to keep the employee’s position (or a comparable one) available for them when they return from leave. However, the FMLA does not protect every situation, so it is important to understand the eligibility requirements. A common issue that arises in FMLA cases is alleged discrimination based on the care of a family member.
What is family care or caregiver discrimination?
Caregiver or family care discrimination refers to a situation where an employee’s responsibility to care for family members results in adverse employment actions being taken against that employee for their absences from work to provide that care. One of the most common examples of this type of employment problem is a mother caring for a sick child. These issues are also common with those who care for a sick parent or spouse with a disability. Caregiver or family care discrimination can be any adverse action taken against an employee simply because of their caregiving responsibilities.
How common are these types of cases?
According to some reports, the number of discrimination cases being brought against employers for family care discrimination has increased by nearly 300% in the last ten years. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently published reports showing that in at least 70% of households in the United States that include children, all of the adults in the household are in the workforce. This easily explains why the number of family care discrimination cases has increased so drastically. It is obvious that one of the parents in the household, inevitably, will need to miss work to care for their child.
Common examples of caregiver discrimination
Whether intentional or not, employers often discriminate against employees because of their family responsibilities. For example, an employee may request to miss work in order to take a parent to a doctor’s appointment but is denied. Another employee may occasionally miss work to stay home and care for a sick child, then be subjected to adverse treatment because of the absence. But what can these employees do if this situation occurs in the workplace?
How to hold employers accountable for caregiver discrimination
Regrettably, caregiver discrimination is not specifically addressed by the Civil Rights Act, which provides most of the employee protections from discrimination in the workplace. However, depending on the situation, a claim for this type of discrimination could be based on sex discrimination or discrimination against an employee for his or her association with someone with a disability under the ADA. Statistics show that a great number of these types of cases involve mothers who need to take time off to care for a child. If you have questions, discuss your situation with an experienced employment discrimination attorney to see if you have a case.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.