WorkLife Law Blog

WorkLife Law aims to end Family Responsibilities Discrimination, which is employment discrimination against workers who have family caregiving obligations. It includes discrimination against parents of young children, pregnant women, and workers who have aging or sick parents, spouses, or partners.

Monday, November 20, 2006


New Family Responsibilities Discrimination Treatise

It’s here! We are pleased to announce that WorkLife Law’s Guide to Family Responsibilities Discrimination has finally been published!

Here's the press release:

Legal Guide to Family Responsibilities Discrimination is Published

Treatise is First of its Kind in Growing Area of Employment Law

SAN FRANCISCO, CA A woman’s position is eliminated while she is on maternity leave. A father who takes time off to be with his kids is taken off important assignments. A mother isn’t considered for promotion because her supervisor thinks she won’t want to work any additional hours now that she has little ones at home. A man is fired when he asks for leave to care for his dying father.

All of these employees are facing Family Responsibilities Discrimination, a rapidly growing area of employment law. FRD can affect pregnant women, mothers and fathers of young children, and workers who take time off to care for their aging parents. Attorneys who represent such employees now have a groundbreaking resource for information about discrimination against workers who care for family members.

WorkLife Law’s Guide to Family Responsibilities Discrimination is the first treatise of its kind. Published by the Center for WorkLife Law, the 160-page Guide provides a thorough overview of the federal and state laws that can be used to protect workers who have family caregiving obligations. It provides practice tips, an extensive compilation of case law, and a special section on research about bias against mothers. The Guide is in loose-leaf format to allow easy updating in this rapidly expanding area of the law.

FRD typically arises when employers make personnel decisions based on outdated stereotypes or assumptions about employees with caregiving obligations, such as pregnant workers will have excessive absences and will quit their jobs, mothers of young children aren’t as competent, fathers who are actively involved in childrearing are not committed to their jobs, and workers who have to care for sick or aging parents won’t be as productive. The caregivers could face termination, non-promotion, loss of bonus, hostile comments, poor job assignments, unwarranted criticisms, or unusual scrutiny. Whether these actions are discrimination in the eyes of law will vary with each situation. The aim of the Guide is to help attorneys who represent employees recognize the common fact patterns of FRD and use the best legal tools available.

The Guide was written by Joan C. Williams and Cynthia Thomas Calvert. Williams is a Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Hastings College of the Law and founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law. She authored the award-winning book Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It (Oxford University Press, 2000). Calvert, deputy director of WorkLife Law, is an employment attorney.

The Center for WorkLife Law is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that works with employers, employees, attorneys, legislators, journalists, and researchers to identify and prevent FRD. It was founded as the Program on Gender, Work & Family at American University Washington College of Law in 1998, and moved to UC Hastings College of the Law in 2005. WorkLife Law is supported by research and program development grants, university funding, and private donations.

Ordering information for the Guide, and more information about FRD, can be found at WorkLife Law’s web site,

# # #

Athe WorkLife Law web site, you can get more information, read an excerpt, or order a copy.

The Guide is a work in progress and will be updated frequently as new cases and research become available. You can help us with our updating process – if you are involved with an FRD case, please jot us an email and let us know.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


The Secret is Out about Mothers and Business Travel

The conventional wisdom is that mothers of young children don't like to travel for business. Well-meaning employers often take mothers off assignments that involved travelling, thinking they are being sensitive to the mothers' needs. (There is a name for this: benevolent stereotyping.) In fact, though, employers who do this often are disadvantaging the mothers because the result of their actions is that mothers get the less challenging and lower profile assignments and in the long run that hurts their ability to advance.

Memo to employers: The solution is to ask the mothers what they want. Don't make assumptions, and don't act on stereotypes. Some women truly don't want to travel. I recall a colleague who had to leave her six month old behind when she went on a business trip -- she went into the bathroom at the airport and threw up. But I also recall telling one of my subordinates that I wasn't taking her on a business trip because she was a new mom (yes, I was as biased as anyone until I started studying maternal wall bias and family responsibilities discrimination), and she insisted on going, saying "You don't understand -- I want to go. It will be the only decent night's sleep I can get for months!"

And that is the secret, as revealed today in the New York Times ("Working Mothers Find Some Peace on the Road" by Lisa Foderaro). Some mothers really do want to travel for business. It is often the only time they can relax and be themselves. The NYT story quotes mothers talking about using their travel time to read, soak in the tub, sleep, and just enjoy some quiet time. I can relate completely. It is extremely difficult to make all the arrangements for the kids and the household before I go, but once I'm on the road, it is heaven. And I return a much nicer person than when I left.

So, employers, next time you're feeling guilty about asking a mother to travel, don't! The best thing to do is to ask both mothers and fathers of young children if they want to travel, and to respect their wishes to the extent possible.

-- Cynthia

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?