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, February 22, 2010


Family Responsibilities Discrimination Litigation Update 2010

A new report by WorkLife Law provides a detailed picture of the current state of FRD litigation, including a 400% increase in the number of cases filed and an average verdict of more than $500,000. The report also describes common fact patterns that lead to FRD claims, shows the number of FRD cases filed in each state, and provides numerous case examples. The report can be downloaded here.

Excerpt from the press release:

Costs of Caregiver Discrimination Increasing for Employers

New Report Says Family Responsibilities Discrimination Cases on the Rise, Cost More

Treating employees less favorably because they have family caregiving obligations can land employers in court and result in significant liability, a new report by the Center for WorkLife Law concludes.

Litigation aimed at bias against U.S. workers who care for children or aging parents has increased 400% in the past decade and the average verdict now tops $500,000, WorkLife Law says. Cases have been brought in every state and every industry, and against large and small employers. Employees prevail in about half of the cases – significantly more frequently than in other types of employment cases.

Employer actions that have resulted in verdicts include:

· Selecting an employee for layoff because she was pregnant;
· Denying a promotion to a female employee because she was the mother of young children;
· Firing a male employee who was on approved leave to care for a foster child;
· Instituting production quotas that could not be met by a male employee on intermittent leave to care for his seriously ill parents, and then firing him for not meeting the quotas.

“Laws are broken when supervisors make assumptions about the value of employees based on their family caregiving responsibilities and then take negative personnel actions, regardless of the employees’ actual performance,” said the report’s author, Cynthia Thomas Calvert, Deputy Director of WorkLife Law.

“Fortunately, employers can protect themselves against these lawsuits,” Calvert continued. “A good prevention program includes training supervisors so they can recognize the assumptions and be prepared to react in a more appropriate way.”

The report, Family Responsibilities Discrimination: Litigation Update 2010, is based on an analysis of over 2100 cases. Most cases reviewed were related to pregnancy and maternity leave (67%). Other cases related to elder care (9.6%), care for sick children (7%), care for ill spouses (4%), time off for newborn care by fathers or adoptive parents (3%), and care for a family member who has a disability (2.4%). Most cases (88%) were filed by women; 12% were filed by men. The report is available on WorkLife Law’s website,

Family responsibilities discrimination is discrimination against employees who have family caregiving obligations, such as pregnant women, mothers and fathers of young children, and workers with sick or aging parents. Some state and local laws prohibit this kind of discrimination outright. Employees also use a variety of state and federal anti-discrimination and family leave laws to sue their employers. Many of the cases studied for the report involved the use of the federal sex discrimination law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

In 2007, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued enforcement guidance about caregiver discrimination that detailed how Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on family responsibilities.

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