Family Responsibility Discrimination
Family responsibility discrimination (FRD) is a term that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and legal professionals use to broadly refer to employment discrimination against employees who are family caregivers.
To put that another way, FRD is employment discrimination against employees on the basis of their responsibilities to care for family members. For that reason, family responsibility discrimination is also referred to as caregiver discrimination.
Typically, the underlying and unlawful discrimination that makes family responsibility discrimination illegal is on the basis of sex (gender), race, national origin or disability. Examples of the reasons that employees become victims of FRD are listed below.
- Taking maternity or paternity leave
- Raising children
- Caring for sick, disabled or elderly family members
Women, particularly minority women, often suffer employment FRD because of their caregiving responsibilities. However, because men have increasingly assumed caregiving responsibilities, they are beginning to suffer more FRD according to the EEOC.
There is neither a "Family Responsibility Discrimination Law" nor "Caregiver Discrimination Law" per se, that specifically outlaws FRD at the Federal level. Additionally, only Alaska and the District of Columbia have passed local laws that specifically outlaw FRD, according to the EEOC at this writing.
However, there are 17 different statutory theories under which FRD charges and lawsuits have been filed, according the EEOC. Prime examples of the Federal laws upon which such theories were based are listed below.
Relevant discrimination laws also prohibit discriminatory stereotyping in employment; for example, employers are prohibited from discriminating against female employees based solely on the assumption that women are more likely to miss work in caring for children than men.
Because FRD-related charges and lawsuits against employers are increasing, the EEOC issued guidelines in May 2007 to compensate for the absence of specific, family responsibility discrimination laws or caregiver discrimination laws at the state and Federal levels. The guidelines are entitled "Enforcement Guidance: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities".
In May 2009, the EEOC supplemented its FRD guidelines with the document "Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities".
If you reasonably believe that your employer or one of its representatives is guilty of family responsibility discrimination or caregiver discrimination against you, then you may attempt to gain relief by filing a charge directly with the EEOC or a state equivalent. You may file the charge yourself or ask your lawyer or another representative to do it for you.
The EEOC is flooded annually with discrimination charges. To better manage its caseload, the EEOC takes on only the most legally-compelling cases. Subsequently, you might hire a lawyer to file your charge in a more legally-compelling way than you can. Lawyers often take winnable discrimination cases on a contingency basis.
Whether you choose to file a charge or consult a lawyer first, don't wait too long, as a statute of limitations applies for taking legal action. You or your representative must file a charge with the EEOC in order to later file a lawsuit, if the EEOC doesn't file one on your behalf.
Your employer may not retaliate against you or your representative for filing a family responsibility discrimination or caregiver discrimination charge or lawsuit, or for participating in related proceedings. Witnesses, such as coworkers, who testify on your behalf are also protected from retaliation.