FRD at the Five-Year Mark: Not Much Progress

In advance of the EEOC’s upcoming meeting on pregnancy and caregiver issues, I’ve been reviewing recent family responsibilities discrimination cases to see if things have changed since the EEOC issued its enforcement guidance on the topic in 2007.  Sadly, I have to conclude that employers have made little progress toward eliminating FRD.
Consider the following evidence:
Pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the EEOC have increased almost 25% in the last five years, according to Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.
Comments employers are alleged in court documents to have made in the last five years show they have little to no understanding of their legal exposure for FRD.  A small sampling:
Female judge to pregnant law clerk: the judge hadn’t “had good luck” with pregnant law clerks and “should only hire lesbians or men.”
Supervisor to bank employee returning from maternity leave: she needed to make a decision, “Either you’re going to be a mom or you’re going to have a career.”
HR staffer to male manager who requested time off to care for his wife and newborn:  “it’s very strange that we have a male manager request that amount of time off, we have never had that before.” He was granted leave and fired a week later.
FRD cases tracked by the Center forWorkLife Law show that the number of new case filings stayed the same or increased every year between 2007 and 2010.
Anecdotal evidence from the Center for WorkLife Law hotline shows that FRD remains open and blatant.  Examples of alleged actions by supervisors include terminating employee because she had children; putting workers with childcare responsibilities on shifts they can’t work while accommodating other employees’ shift requests; harassing father at work because of his family care obligations; terminating women for being pregnant; terminating women on maternity leave; denying paternity leave to fathers; taking job responsibilities away from mothers after they return from maternity leave; penalizing parents for taking sick days to care for sick children; denying promotions to mothers; and abusing the certification process for employees who are trying to take FMLA leave for family care.
Will the next five years bring a decrease in FRD? Maybe.  The EEOC continues to bring caregiver cases against employers, the media and the Center for WorkLife Law continue to educate the public about FRD, and Workforce 21C and others continue to help employers prevent FRD in their workplaces.  Next week’s EEOC meeting may give us some clues about future trends.


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