Several laws serve to protect employees from discrimination based on their responsibilities to care for family members. Family responsibilities discrimination arises when workers are treated less favorably because of their caregiving responsibilities, such as caring for children, aging parents, ill spouses, or other family members with disabilities. Discrimination against employees because of these types of family responsibilities may violate one or more laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, as well as several state and local laws.
The lawyers at Correia & Puth are committed to fighting for employees who have experienced discrimination because of their family responsibilities, and hold employers accountable for their unlawful actions. We have long advocated against stereotypes in the workplace and for protections workers have under Title VII, the ADA, FMLA, and other laws. We have filed complaints in state and federal courts, and negotiated improved employment conditions and settlement agreements with employers.
“Employment discrimination based on family caregiving responsibilities occurs when an employee is treated unfairly because of his or her duty to provide care for a family member. Employees should not be penalized for taking care of their loved ones, and the lawyers of Correia & Puth are committed to fighting against family responsibilities discrimination.”
Family responsibilities discrimination affects both men and women, and claims have risen in recent years. Family responsibilities discrimination can occur when workers caring for elder family members are criticized or disciplined for taking personal days, while non-caregiving employees are not. Claims include denial of leave when leave is provided to other employees for reasons other than caregiving responsibilities, or retaliation against employees for taking leave to care for family members.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is often implicated in family responsibility cases. FMLA provides certain employees the right to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to care for, among other things, a parent, spouse or child with a serious health condition. For eligible employees, leave is available when a family member has an illness or injury requiring inpatient care or a short period of incapacity followed by continuing medical care. Employers are prohibited from interfering with a covered employee’s request for FMLA leave, for example by denying or discouraging an employee from taking FMLA leave, and from retaliating against someone who has taken FMLA. If an employee takes leave under the FMLA to care for a sick loved one, and then is discriminated or retaliated against for taking the leave, the employee may have a claim for family responsibilities discrimination.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on association with an individual with a disability, as defined under the ADA. This provision of the ADA provides protection to individuals caring for people with disabilities from discrimination and retaliation (though does not offer employees caring for a person with a disability the right to a reasonable accommodation). Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against an employee based on their caregiving of an individual with a disability, for example, when a parent needs to take leave to care for a child with a disability.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 may also protect against family responsibilities discrimination. Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. When Title VII is violated in the family responsibilities discrimination context, it is most commonly because of sex stereotyping. Women have traditionally been the primary family caregivers, and employers may view women with caregiving responsibilities as less dedicated or competent workers. Employees may be able to allege sex discrimination when they have been treated worse based on stereotypes of female caregivers or treated worse than male employees whose behavior is similar to theirs. For example, an employee may have a claim for family responsibilities discrimination if an employer made stereotypical or derogatory comments about a pregnant worker or a working mother. Another example of a possible violation is if an employer refuses to give a male employee leave for his caregiving responsibilities, but grants similar leave requests to female employees, and vice versa.
In Washington, D.C., state law provides for specific protections against this type of discrimination. District of Columbia Code includes family responsibilities as a protected classification in its employment anti-discrimination law, defined as “the state of being, or the potential to become, a contributor to the support of a person or persons in a dependent relationship, irrespective of their number, including the state of being the subject of an order of withholding or similar proceedings for the purpose of paying child support or a debt related to child support.”
If your employer has treated or is treating you negatively because of your family caregiving responsibilities, contact the lawyers at Correia & Puth, PLLC. We will help you identify your rights and consider your options for improving your working conditions or remedying the discrimination you experienced. Please call us at 202-602-6500 or contact us online today.