Happy Mother’s Day!

Written by Robert G. Brody and Rebecca Goldberg on May 10, 2012

In honor of Mother’s Day, we consider how employers can create workplace policies that recognize the needs of employees – mothers, fathers, even neighbors – with caregiving responsibilities.

 

Hiring should focus on the applicant’s qualifications, not pregnancy, child care, or other family issues.

Assumptions and stereotypes are dangerous.  Not all women take on caregiving roles at home.  Nor do men necessarily lack caregiving responsibilities.  Avoid sex discrimination claims by recognizing the individual needs of your employees.

Parental status is a protected class under many state laws.  Have you checked yours?

Pregnancy is a protected status under federal law and many state laws.  Pregnancy-related disabilities are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

You should be aware of all the state and federal laws that deal with caregiving responsibilities, often indirectly.  For example, Connecticut’s new medical marijuana law prohibits discrimination against certain caregivers and its new sick leave law allows time off to care for a parent, spouse, or child.  The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against individuals who are associated with a person with a disability.

 

Men can bring sex discrimination claims when they do not receive the same benefits as women for caregiving issues.

Over half of married mothers with children under age 6 are employed.

The Fair Labor Standards Act was recently amended to provide breastfeeding breaks for nursing mothers.

HR Audits should be used to reveal disparities you did not realize existed.  Consider whether employees with caregiving responsibilities are being hired, promoted, and paid on par with other employees.

Employees who have sued for issues related to family responsibilities have a higher success rate in court than employees who sue for most other employment issues.

Review your employee handbook with an eye toward disability and leave policies.  Make sure they are written and implemented in a non-discriminatory manner.

Single people have complained about the scheduling flexibility employers have given to married workers to handle family responsibilities, but this has not evolved into a significant legal concern for employers.  Nonetheless, to boost morale among all employees, consider that single people may have caregiving responsibilities not covered by your policies (e.g. for an elderly aunt or a disabled neighbor) or that they may be resentful of being asked to take on extra responsibilities due to family responsibilities of others. 

 

Daycare costs are one of the top reasons parents choose not to return to work after the birth of a child.  Some companies provide on-site daycare or discount vouchers as a way to retain their employees.

Assessing employees by results rather than “face time” helps provide flexibility, while holding all employees accountable for their output.

Your obligation under the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow leave to care for a child extends to employees who act as parents, even if they are not the child’s actual parents.  Examples are grandparents caring for grandchildren or Opie’s Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show.

 

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with the latest state and federal employment laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.

About the Authors

Robert G. Brody is the founding member of Brody and Associates, LLC. He has been quoted and published in national publications and appears as a guest T.V. commentator on contemporary Labor and Employment issues. Learn More