According to the EEOC, employers should be aware of employee rights under Title VII and the Americans With Disabilities Act. The agency makes clear that its guidance is not intended to create a new protected category of employees with family responsibilities. Rather, it is intended to address disparate treatment of employees who care for family members.
The guidance identifies several areas where employers may be at risk for discrimination claims by employees with family care obligations.
A key area of concern is the sexual stereotyping of female employees who often bear key caregiver functions. The EEOC notes that "women with caregiving responsibilities may be perceived as more committed to caregiving than to their jobs and as less competent than other workers, regardless of how their caregiving responsibilities actually impact their work."
Employment decisions "based on such stereotypes violate the federal antidiscrimination statutes, even when an employer acts upon such stereotypes unconsciously or reflexively." Evidence of unlawful treatment includes: asking female applicants, but not males, about marital status and caregiver responsibilities; derogatory comments about pregnant employees or female caregivers; subjecting such individuals to less favorable treatment; or assignment of unfavorable jobs to female caregivers. The guidance, called Treatment of Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities, is available online.
Impact: Employers are advised to review the EEOC’s guidance. As always, appropriate training of managers and supervisors on their legal obligations is the best approach to sensitive decision-making to avoid liability issues.
Workforce Management, September 10, 2007, p. 10 -- Subscribe Now!