I once spent six years pregnant.  Not full years, mind you, but enough time that the more recent attention being given to caregiver discrimination catches my eye.  One thing that’s interesting to note is that, while the designation of “caregiver” has not (yet) been given protected status under Title VII (or most state anti-discrimination laws for that matter); employers have been increasingly targeted for such claims under the umbrella of sex discrimination, the ADAAA, the Equal Pay Act, and other anti-discrimination statutes.  Lawmakers have already formally extended FMLA protections to military caregivers, so who’s to say other specific laws won’t come next?  With the baby boomer generation heading into retirement and the increase in the numbers of single parents, caregiver issues will grow increasingly important, behooving employers to stay ahead of the curve.

So how do you do that?  Having a flexible workplace is one way in which my employer, for example, enables me and my co-workers to balance work and family.  Flexibility options you may implement include:

  • Part-time employment and/or job sharing
  • Flexible hours
  • Telecommuting or computer access from home

Moreover, the EEOC recommends several best practices to employers to stay out of trouble in this area, many of which you may already be doing (or should be doing).  The following are some additional simple – or even obvious – practices you can use to prevent caregiver discrimination:

  • Be clear when describing job positions so that applicants understand the time and travel commitments of the position.
  • Do not make assumptions about an applicant’s ability to do a job based upon gender, pregnancy, or familial status.
  • Implement your EEO, leave, and FMLA policies on a consistent, equal basis.
  • Focus on actual performance, ignoring authorized/protected caregiving leaves of absence, when making promotion, compensation, training, or other employment decisions.

You can learn more about this topic on the EEOC’s website at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/caregiver-best-practices.html.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you do in your workplace to make it more flexible and/or protect caregivers.


Vanessa Towarnicky's primary focus is in the area of labor and employment law. She has been involved in representing clients in various employment cases, including sexual harassment; deliberate intent; age, race, and disability discrimination; wrongful discharge; and various other employment-related torts. She is admitted to various state and federal courts as well as the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
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