Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Are There Any EEO Protections for Caregivers? Signs of Discrimination Against Female & Male Parents & Caregivers

By Erica N. CordovaHR Esquire – The Cordova Law Firm LLC

For parents in the workforce, juggling their personal and professional obligations can be quite a difficult balancing act. Everywhere you look there are articles about work-life balance and how to achieve it. Unfortunately, the assumption of some employers is that your work performance is inherently compromised by your caregiving responsibilities. Making these types of assumptions is very risky for an employer. While women may be the target of most caregiver discrimination, this issue also affects male caregivers as well. 

While discrimination based on an individual's status as a parent (which is prohibited under Executive Order 13152) is not a covered discrimination basis enforced by the EEOC, there are situations where discrimination against a caregiver may serve as sufficient grounds to alleged sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, or disability discrimination under the ADA. This article explores some of the instances where discrimination against a caregiver could be unlawful. 

Signs of Sex Discrimination Against Female Caregivers
  • Inquiring as to whether the applicant/employee is married, has children, or about the applicant's/employee's childcare arrangements
  • Less favorable treatment after an employee becomes pregnant or gives birth
  • Assigning women with caregiving responsibilities to lower-paid positions or positions lacking the opportunity for advancement
  • Refusal to promote women with caregiving responsibilities
  • Male coworkers with caregiving responsibilities receive more favorable treatment
  • Gender role stereotyping about greater commitment to caregiving responsibilities than work
  • Assumptions about a pregnant employees ability to perform certain tasks
  • Inquiring as to whether an applicant/employee is pregnant

Signs of Sex Discrimination Against Male Caregivers
  • Harassing a male employee for being a primary caregiver
  • Denial of a male employee's leave request for caregiving purposes, while granting those of female caregivers
  • Refusal to assign an available part-time or flexible work option position requested due to caregiving responsibilities
Signs of Race Discrimination Against a Caregiver
  • Less favorable treatment of caregivers that are members of a certain racial of ethnic group, compared to treatment of caregivers in another racial or ethnic group
  • Stereotyping about an employee's caregiving abilities and obligations due to the employee's race
Signs of Disability Discrimination Against a Caregiver
  • Stereotyping about an employee's ability to perform the job due to the employee's caregiving responsibilities for an individual, such as their child, parent, or spouse, with a disability
  • Failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability resulting from pregnancy or child-birth complications

While these are not definitive signs that an employer is trying to discriminate against an employee due to his or her caregiver status, it is important to note that these activities can result in the disparate treatment of certain employees. When accompanied by additional evidence of discrimination, these activities could serve as the grounds for an actionable discrimination claim.

Erica N. Cordova is the Managing Attorney of HR Esquire - The Cordova Law Firm LLC. At HR Esquire, we believe in passing the savings along to our clients through our part-time law firm model. We strive to help small businesses develop a solid foundation and legal strategy so they can be successful. We will work to improve legal compliance and employee relations. Our goal is to improve your business' performance and provide legal advice for a successful human resources strategy via our Offsite General Counsel. Find out how we can help you and your business today! If you have questions about this article, please email 

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