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Understanding Employment Discrimination Based on Family Responsibilities


Federal anti-discrimination laws protect employees who need to take time away from work to handle family responsibilities. Legislators recognize the importance of supporting family relationships and require employers to do the same. There are three federal laws that provide various types of protection against discrimination of this type: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (which amended Title VII), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Family and Medical Leave Act

The FMLA is the principal federal law that protects employees with family obligations. The FMLA requires employers to permit employees to take a specific amount of unpaid leave to care for a family member in the event of illness, injury, or for the birth of a child. Under this statute, you are entitled to FMLA leave without fear of losing your job or suffering retaliation. If you lose your job or are retaliated against for exercising your rights under the FMLA, you can bring a claim against your employer in court.

Title VII’s Pregnancy Protections

An employer is prohibited from imposing different procedures when it comes to determining a pregnant employee’s ability to work. If an employee is unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, and those limitations are temporary, the employer is required to treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For instance, if temporarily disabled employees are allowed to modify their job duties or perform alternative work, take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer is required to allow a pregnant employee the same options.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA also allows employees to take time off for family obligations. Specifically, the Act protects parents of children with disabilities. For instance, if a parent of a child with cerebral palsy needs to leave work early to care for the disabled child, the employer is prohibited from retaliating against the parent. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who have an "association" with someone with a disability. The provision regarding “association” states as follows:

It shall be discriminatory to exclude or otherwise deny equal goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, accommodations, or other opportunities to an individual or entity because of the known disability of an individual with whom the individual or entity is known to have a relationship or association.

Since a parent has a relationship with a child with a disability, they would be covered by these provisions. If you feel you have been treated unfairly because of your need to take care of your family responsibilities, speak to our Birmingham employment attorneys to see if you may have a claim.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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