A recent study has tracked the number of cases involving complaints of family caregiver discrimination. Over the past ten years, the number of caregiver discrimination complaints has increased greatly. This involves women who become pregnant, breastfeeding complaints, and adults caring for their aging parents. Employees, both male and female, are becoming more outspoken about their rights to care for loved ones, and fighting back against workplace discrimination.
The report, Caregivers in the Workplace, by Cynthia Thomas Calvert and UC Berkeley's Center for WorkLife Law, tracked over 4,000 family responsibility discrimination cases between 1998 and 2012. The report found that “employers have not implemented effective policies and practices for managing employees who have family caregiving obligations.”
The numbers show the serious extent of family caregiver discrimination. Lawsuits involving family responsibility discrimination claims have increased 269% over the last ten years. Cases involving breastfeeding discrimination are up 800%. Elder care claims are up 650%.The report also shows an increase in men making discrimination claims in their role as family caregivers.
Caregiver discrimination cases often involve both civil rights laws and family leave laws. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding are protected against discrimination because of their gender. They may also be protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Additionally, if a company offers maternal family leave accommodations, those accommodations must also be offered to fathers.
Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for family and medical reasons. This includes recovery from a serious illness, birth or adoption of a child, and caring for a spouse, child or parent. The FMLA provides job protection for the time the employee is away. Unfortunately, not all employers take these job protections seriously.
Not only are employees bringing forth more claims of caregiver discrimination, they are winning most of these cases. The report found that employees won two-thirds of the cases that went to trial, and employers paid out almost $500 million in settlements and awards over the past decade.
Given some of the ways employers treated their employees, it is not surprising that many employees are successful in their legal claims. In one case, an employee who took allowable FMLA time to care for her aging mother was fired. The supervisor told her, “You won't have to call in ever again about momma.” In another case in Colorado, a woman was denied a promotion she had been promised when her supervisor told her that it was, “too bad she had to go and get pregnant.”
If you or a loved one has been discriminated against because of caring for a family member, it is important to speak to an experienced Illinois employment discrimination attorney. Your supervisor or employer may be violating federal and state human rights laws. Illinois employees who may be a victim of employment discrimination should speak with an attorney who understands Illinois and federal employment discrimination law. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients and their families the justice they deserve.