Family responsibilities discrimination is a type of discrimination that is also called caregiver discrimination. There are many individuals who have caregiving responsibilities.
Individuals often have to provide care for their children, sick adults in their families, or elders. When their work responsibilities interfere with their family responsibilities, an employee will often choose to take time off to care for their injured or sick family member.
In numerous states, however, employers are not legally permitted to discriminate against employees due to their caregiver responsibilities. Family responsibilities discrimination may also be abbreviated as FRD.
Examples of FRD include neglecting to promote or hire individuals with caregiver responsibilities or firing or demoting caregivers. This type of discrimination may take on many first, including discrimination in the workplace.
FRD in the workplace may include being fired due to caregiving responsibilities or discrimination in other areas of life, such as housing or education. It is commonly experienced by women and individuals of color, who are more likely to be primary caregivers.
Are There Laws Against Family Responsibilities Discrimination?
There are currently no federal laws that uniformly prohibit FRD. The State of Alaska and the District of Columbia have passed laws that prohibit any type of discrimination in the workplace because of family obligations.
In addition, the cities of Atlanta, Georgia, and Tampa, Florida have passed similar laws. There are, however, certain federal protections under which employees who believe they are experiencing FRD can file a claim.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, expressly prohibits any discrimination that is based on gender. There have been some successful FRD cases that have successfully argued that a woman was treated in a discriminatory manner because she was a mother and was, therefore, negatively stereotyped.
The Family and Medical Leave Act also provides protections for expectant mothers and new mothers, who are entitled to some medical leave when their infants are newborn. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits any discrimination against women who plan to become pregnant, want to be pregnant, or are pregnant.
What are ADA Caregiver Rights?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and education against individuals who have disabilities in various areas of their lives. Caregivers of individuals who have disabilities are protected under the ADA as well, specifically in the context of employment.
Pursuant to the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who have disabilities, including accommodations for caregivers. For example, employers may be required to provide flexible schedules of time off to employees who are caregivers so they can attend medical appointments or provide care for their family members.
Can Plaintiffs Recover Remedies?
Yes, a plaintiff may be able to recover remedies if their employer has violated federal, state, or local laws and discriminated against a caregiver. The caregiver may be able to recover monetary compensation.
As with other civil litigation procedures, there may be an opportunity to settle the dispute in mediation or during negotiations prior to going to court. These are great alternatives to trails because they save time and money for all parties involved.
An employer can protect themself against an FLD lawsuit by providing reasonable accommodations to their employees who need time off to provide care to their family members.
Does an Employer Have Defenses?
Employers may have a defense to a claim of caregiver discrimination. It is important to note that the burden of proof rests on the employer to show that the actions they took were based on legitimate and non-discriminatory reasons.
A common defense that may be available to an employer is that the employee was not qualified for the position or they were not adequately performing their job. An employer can argue that the employee’s caregiving responsibilities had nothing to do with the employer’s decision to terminate the employee or deny them a promotion.
If, however, the employee is able to show that they were, in fact, qualified for the position and were meeting their job requirements, that defense may not succeed. A second possible defense that an employer may raise is that accommodating the employee would cause them an undue hardship.
An employer would have to show that accommodating that employee would cause a significant expense or difficulty to their business. The employer would also have to show that there are no other ways to accommodate the caregiving responsibilities of the employee.
An employer may also be able to argue that they were not aware of the employee’s caregiving responsibilities and that the discrimination was not intentional. However, it is important to note that this lack of knowledge will not be a defense if it can be shown that the employer was aware or should have been aware of the employee’s caregiving responsibilities.
The specific defenses that can be raised will vary depending on the facts and circumstances of each individual case as well as the laws that apply in each specific situation.
What Remedies Does an Employee Have?
An employee may believe that they have been discriminated against in the workplace. If that is the case, several remedies that may be available to them under state and federal workplace discrimination laws, including:
- Monetary damages: An employee who was discriminated against may be entitled to monetary damages, including compensation for:
- lost wages;
- compensation for emotional distress;
- Reinstatement or promotion: An employee who was discriminated against may be entitled to reinstatement to their previous position or to be promoted to a position they were denied receiving;
- Injunctive relief: An employee who was discriminated against may be entitled to an injunction that orders their employer to stop the discriminatory practices and to take affirmative action to prevent future instances of discrimination;
- Attorneys’ fees and costs: An employee may be entitled to reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in pursuing a discrimination claim; and
- Training and education: An employee may be entitled to training and education for the employer’s staff on discrimination laws and policies.
The specific remedies that may be available will vary depending on the laws that apply to the facts and circumstances of each individual case. In addition, there are some states that may offer additional remedies or have varying standards for proving discrimination.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to family responsibilities discrimination, whether you are an employee or an employer, it is essential to consult with a discrimination lawyer. If you are an employee who has been discriminated against, your lawyer can evaluate your case and help you file a complaint with the proper federal or state agency. This would include the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or another state fair employment practices agency.
Your lawyer will also represent you in court if the agency does not resolve the issue, and you have to take your case to trial. Your attorney will also represent you during any negotiations to help protect your rights and ensure you receive a fair settlement if you choose to accept one.
If you are an employer, your lawyer can advise you on the laws of your state as well as the requirements for accommodations. Your lawyer can also provide advice regarding whether certain conduct may be perceived as discriminatory.
Having a discrimination lawyer on your case will ensure your rights are protected throughout the legal process and increase your chances of a successful outcome.