The number of FRD cases filed has been increasing every year. A study from the Center for WorkLife Law shows that federal FRD case filings have increased from about 25 in 1998 to about 269 in 2008. A look at what is causing this increase suggests that the rate of new claims will continue to rise. Consider the following:
- Women make up about half of the workforce, and women are still responsible for most of the family caregiving in our society. Studies show that 75% of married mothers with school-aged children are employed.
- Studies also show that fathers of young children are more actively involved in their day-to-day care.
- One startling change in our society: 35 years ago, more than 70% of families with children were “traditional” with one adult breadwinner in the paid workforce and one stay-at-home adult providing family care. Today, more than 70% of families with children have all adults in the paid workforce. No one is at home to take care of family work, increasing the pressures on both men and women at work.
- Another startling change: the need to care for adult family members, such as spouses or partners or aging parents, has exploded. Adults are living longer and need help with daily activities. Adults who are hospitalized are discharged sooner, often while they still need care. Some studies say that as many as one in four Americans are caring for an adult family member. Men are providing an increasing amount of adult care, as much as 41% by one estimate.
What these trends mean is that there is an increasing clash between the workplace, which wants employees to give work priority and be available 24/7, and the workforce, which needs to take care of family. The clash is made worse by expectations among younger workers that they should be able to combine work and life, even if they are not caregivers, and among older workers that they should be able to balance work and family needs. This leads to frustrations, misunderstandings, stress, and decreased productivity.
FRD claims are rising not only because almost all employees at some point in their careers will need to provide family care, but also because employees are becoming more aware of the laws they can use to sue their employers when they believe they are being treated unfairly because of their family caregiving responsibilities.
Companies that can recognize and plan to meet these demographic trends are going to come out on top. An engaged, focused, and loyal workforce is more productive and provides better customer service. Addressing FRD is essential to a company’s bottom line.