What is Family Responsibilities Discrimination?
Caregiver or Family Responsibilities Discrimination is not a stand-alone claim; rather, it is a combination of other forms of discrimination, encompassing pregnancy, maternity leave, and employees that care for their children, disabled family members, and/or ill or elderly parents.
Cases such of these are usually brought under a combination of federal laws, including Title VII for sex discrimination, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for failure to provide leave or retaliation for taking leave, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA or ADAAA) for associational claims, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) for interference with an employee’s right to benefits.
Cases such as these are sometimes referred to as “sex plus” cases in the Title VII context because the employee was allegedly discriminated based on his/her sex “plus” another characteristic, such as being a parent.
What Does a Caregiver or Family Responsibilities Discrimination Case Look Like?
Usually this form of discrimination flows from an adverse action (for example a cut in hours, failure to promote, denial of leave, termination or any other form of discipline) that is taken against an employee because of the employee’s caregiving or family responsibilities or because of sex stereotyping. Sex stereotyping can occur in this context if an employer makes assumptions about an employee’s family responsibilities based on the employee’s sex.
Here are some examples:
- Of a sex discrimination and FMLA claim: An employer denies FMLA leave to a male employee who has requested the leave to care for his newborn child, based on the assumption that his wife should do it.
- Of a sex stereotyping claim: An employer denies a promotion to a female employee based on the belief that she does not have the time to take on the increased duties of the new position, to travel, or to work longer hours, because of her assumed responsibilities to her family.
- Of an ADA associational and ERISA claim: An employer fires husband and wife employees because their terminally ill son is incurring extensive medical bills on the employer’s insurance.
- Of a pregnancy discrimination claim: An employer terminates a pregnant employee based on the belief that she would miss too much work caring for her child after she returned from maternity leave.
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