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Given the nature of modern American life, where many families are led by two working parents or a single working parent, issues of having enough maternity leave, or time to take care of young children or sick relatives arise fairly often in the workplace.

While discrimination against caregivers is illegal under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), many employers haven’t adopted internal policies to address workers’ caregiving concerns.

Understanding Caregiver Discrimination in the Workplace

Caregiver Rights and the Law

Under the FMLA and CFRA, it is illegal for most California employers to discriminate against employees solely based on the need to care for an ill family member or to deny maternity or parental leave if it is reasonable for the employer to allow for such leave.

While many California employers are required to follow the rules of the FMLA and CFRA, the laws do have some limitations.

Caregiver Discrimination Claims are on the Rise

According to recent research, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of claims alleging discrimination based on family responsibilities (such as rights under FMLA and CFRA) over the past ten years as compared to the previous ten year period.

The vast majority of these caregiver discrimination cases allege maternity or pregnancy discrimination. Similarly, the number of claims filed by women who have been denied the right to breastfeed or pump breast milk at work are also on the rise.

Why is this happening?

There are many reasons for the increase in discrimination cases involving caregiving of children or ill or disabled family members. One major indicator is that both parents in a household are often working, while also attempting to care for not just their children, but elderly parents. There has also been an increase in the need for workers to care for disabled family members in addition to other caregiving responsibilities.

Because of these reasons, employees feel that they should have some level of flexibility in their workplace to allow them to complete necessary caregiving activities for their families.

Examples of Caregiver Discrimination

It may be considered illegal for an employer to place certain limitations on the leave of its employees. For example, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee based on a stereotype of which gender should be responsible for caring for children.

Additionally, if an employer promotes a male employee with children over a female employee with children, and presumes that female workers should focus on home life, while male employees should be at work longer hours, this can be an example of caregiver discrimination.

Favoring employees or job applicants who don’t have children over those who are parents or expecting pregnancies is also considered illegal under workplace discrimination laws.

Caregiver Discrimination in the Workplace: For Further Reading

  • What is FMLA? FAQ on Federal Leave Law via FindLaw.com
  • Caregiver’s Rights via National Caregivers Library
  • California Family Rights Act via the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing
  • Americans are Filing More Lawsuits Alleging Caregiver Discrimination. Here’s Why via Slate.com

No one should have to worry about keeping their job in order to tend to their children or other family members. If you feel your caregiver rights have been violated, Hennig Ruiz Law Firm is here to help. Contact our experienced employment attorneys for a free consultation today.