Valuable employees with increased caregiving responsibilities, due to Covid 19 or otherwise, are feeling pressure to leave the workforce. Recent events have forced these otherwise qualified and hardworking employees to prioritize their loved ones over the long-term consequences on their careers. In large part, the fallout in caregiver workforce participation reflects upon employers’ inability or lack of desire to effectively support employees. Given the number of employees with some form of caregiving responsibility, employers’ failure to remain flexible and implement the available adjustments will undoubtedly impact the entire job market.
Employers inclined to die on the hill of intransigence should first consider the legal risks of treating caregivers differently from non-caregivers. Setting aside the fact that treating caretakers fairly is the responsible thing to do, the rise in these caregiver cases – and plaintiffs’ high success rate – should be enough to motivate employers to take allegations of unfair treatment seriously, to investigate fully, and to create policies to prevent misconduct.
While familial status is not explicitly covered under federal anti-discrimination laws, caregiver discrimination can run afoul of federal leave laws and employee protection statutes, as well as state laws and city ordinances that make caregivers a protected class.
Generally, claims of caregiver discrimination are based upon subtle (read: expensive to defend) forms of discrimination. A supervisor’s actions can still be discriminatory, even if well-intentioned. Operating without a policy or procedure and leaving the decisions up to individual supervisors will result in missteps and create unnecessary risk. The good news: Stanton Law can help!
Stay tuned: Part 2 of this series is coming soon!