Not a Member? Get access to HR news and resources that you can trust.
Make sure supervisors know these common justifications for harassment are unacceptable.
Is your employee handbook ready for the changing world of work? With SHRM’s Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
60+ new SHRM Seminar dates in 10 U.S. cities and virtually.
Expand your influence and learn how to become an effective leader -- Join us in Phoenix, AZ, October 2-4, 2017.
Family responsibilities discrimination actions have high success rates
More workers are suing their employers, claiming they have faced discrimination because they are caring for family members.
The number of actions brought by employees with family responsibilities that were decided by courts, agencies and arbitrators in the last decade more than tripled from the prior decade—and employees won 67 percent of the cases that went to trial—according to a new study by the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law.
The study report, Caregivers in the Workplace: Family Responsibilities Discrimination Litigation Update 2016, analyzed 4,400 family responsibility discrimination cases filed in the U.S. over a 10-year period and found a 269 percent increase in the number of such cases filed in the past decade over the previous decade. The data also show that men are filing such lawsuits at a growing rate.
The findings reveal “a classic bad news/good news scenario,” said report author Cynthia Thomas Calvert, senior advisor to the Center for WorkLife Law. “The bad news is that discrimination against employees with family responsibilities is on the rise. The good news is that we are starting to pinpoint when and why it occurs, which means that we can address its root causes.”
Family responsibilities discrimination litigation cost U.S. employers $477 million over the past decade—compared to approximately $197 million from 1996 to 2005, according to the report. These figures exclude the ripple effects of discrimination, including employee attrition and related replacement costs, damage to the company’s public reputation, and reductions in the morale and productivity of all employees, the report states.
Types of Cases
Most of the family responsibilities discrimination cases in the study arose in connection with:
“This report shows us that employers need to be particularly vigilant when it comes to following laws related to pregnancy and lactation accommodation, as these life events account for the highest number of discrimination cases brought by workers,” said Joan C. Williams, founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law. The center has developed a website to help employers, employees and their attorneys navigate the legal landscape around pregnancy in the workplace.
One quickly growing area of family responsibilities cases involves employees who care for sick or aging parents. The researchers anticipate that eldercare cases will become even more prevalent as the U.S. population ages. “Until employers adjust to the realities of families with all adults in the paid workforce and a significant growth in the number of older Americans who need assistance from their adult working children, it’s unlikely we’ll see a decrease in the number of cases filed,” said Calvert.
Employers can take specific steps to reduce their vulnerability to litigation from employees, the researchers advised. Such steps include:
Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow me on Twitter.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Your session has expired. Please log in again before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Become a SHRM Member
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies
[/_catalogs/masterpage/SHRMCore/Main.master][Title][SHRM Online - Society for Human Resource Management]