Family Responsibilities Discrimination: A Closer Look

Family Responsibilities Discrimination: A Closer Look

FRD, which is also known as marital status discrimination and parental status discrimination, is one of the newest additions to the job bias spectrum. In the waning days of his administration, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 13152. This obscure order, which added some language to a previous Executive Order, applied only to federal employees until 2017. 

Today, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EO 13152 prohibits all forms of family responsibility discrimination, whether the party is a biological parent or a legal parent (e.g., guardian or adoptive parent).

This area of the law is still emerging, so there are few clear-cut cases of family responsibility discrimination. Therefore, although it has taken a stand on the general principle, the EEOC often refuses to take up individual cases. If that happens, the FRD victim can turn to a Chicago employment discrimination lawyer. These individuals could be entitled to substantial compensation.

Examples of FRD

Since this area of the law is so now, many employers have discriminatory policies or tolerate discriminatory practices. This form of discrimination could be an expression of gender discrimination or pregnancy bias. However, EO 13152 does not just protect women and pregnant workers. 

FRD is best understood as a form of disability discrimination, although the Americans with Disabilities Act does not address these situations. Some examples include:

  • New Parents: Some employers assume that new parents will request more time off. That is especially true if a child has special needs. So, many employers transfer these workers to less-demanding, and lower-paying, positions.
  • Unequal Leave Policies: Many employers would grant time-off requests for women in situations like cancer treatments for a seriously ill child. But they do not grant such requests for men. Or, if Mom and Dad both work for the same employer, the boss will give one parent leave, but not the other one. These situations are complex, as the Family Medical Leave Act and some other legal provisions come into play here, as well.
  • Mandatory Full Time: Most people prefer full-time work to part-time work. So, a mandatory full-time policy might not appear discriminatory. But such a policy disproportionately impacts people like new parents, who often desire temporary part-time assignments.

Illinois is one of the only states which universally prohibits family responsibility discrimination. So, if relief is unavailable under federal law, victims in the Prairie State might have another legal option.

The Claims Process

As mentioned, many employers unintentionally discriminate based on family responsibilities. In these cases, a simple letter from an attorney might make a huge difference. Once these employers understand the law and the possible consequences of violating it, they are often willing to change their ways.

The next step is filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Federal law gives this agency the power to enforce job bias laws. However, unless the case is an easy win or affects thousands of workers, the EEOC often refuses to discharge its responsibilities. That is especially true if the case does not further the EEOC’s current political agenda.

So, an EEOC refusal does not mean your claim is weak or meritless. A refusal simply gives you the right to work with an attorney and bring an independent legal action.

Connect with a Savvy Lawyer

All forms of family responsibility discrimination are clearly illegal in Illinois. Contact Chicago employment discrimination lawyer Mitchell A. Kline today to schedule your free consultation.