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The Practical Employer

Parental Status Discrimination Is NOT a Thing. But Should It Be?

New York's new law grants paid leave for the same general reasons one can take unpaid leave under the FMLA. What it does not do is create a new protected class.

I received some great feedback on LinkedIn on last week’s post on New York’s new paid family leave law.

That law grants paid leave for the same general reasons one can take unpaid leave under the FMLA. What it does not do, though, is create a new protected class.

Indeed, discrimination based on one’s status as a parent is, in and of itself, NOT illegal.

Case in point? Spink-Krause v. Medtronic (E.D. Mich. 10/23/17).

In that case, the plaintiff, a medical sales rep and working mom, claimed sex discrimination. The alleged discrimination? Her boss made her job as working parent more difficult by reassigning all of the accounts close to her home to other reps, thus requiring her to travel further from her children.

The court dismissed her sex discrimination claim, because Title VII protects against sex discrimination, not parental discrimination:

If Plaintiff were to allowed to take her sex discrimination claim to trial by showing that she was treated differently than a female who does not have children, then the claim she would present to the jury would be a parental discrimination claim — not a gender discrimination claim.

This is not to say that “parental status” can never be a valid basis for a discrimination claim, but it must equate to sex discrimination. In other words, one can claim parental status discrimination, so long as one can show that the employer treated the parent differently because of the parent’s gender (i.e., the employer treats working moms worse than working dads, or vice versa).

So, here’s my Monday question for y’all. SHOULD parental status discrimination be a thing?

Leave me your comments below, or jump over to LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts there. I’ll curate the best thoughts in a future post.

Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.