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 01, 2010


Parents Need Not Apply

Remember the days when employment ads were classified as “help wanted-female” and “help wanted-male”? Seems so quaint now, doesn’t it?

What doesn’t seem quaint is the current-day version: “help wanted-no childcare concerns.”

That’s for real. Silver Spring Dream Dinners placed an ad for part-time help that specifies the applicant must have own transportation, be able to work 10-20 hours per week (including evenings and weekends), be able to lift 50 pounds, and have “no school or childcare concerns.” Huh? Does that say mothers of young children need not apply? It sure sounds it. Dream Dinners might as well have said “the only people who can work here are those who don’t have young children.” After all, no parent could state with certainty that he or she has no childcare concerns. Kids get sick, blizzards happen, holidays crop up.

What makes this more surprising is that the ad is for an organization that makes its money catering to busy parents who work outside and inside the home, and the ad was placed on a mailing list, DC Urban Moms (and Dads), that is directed at parents of young children. What would the clientele say if they knew that the company discriminates against parents?

Dream Dinners might protest that it doesn’t mean to discriminate, that it just wants dependable workers who aren’t going to be pulled away by childcare emergencies. Yup, and the companies that hired only men circa 1965 just wanted competent, dependable workers who had someone at home full-time to take care of the family work. The problem with this type of thinking – aside from the fact that it is based on stereotypes and is unfair – is that it perpetuates work structures that are set up as if the norm is the unencumbered male.

Moreover, it is downright illegal. Dream Dinners would surely argue that at most it has discriminated against parents and that parents are not a protected category under state (Maryland) or federal law. Unfortunately for Dream Dinners, it is located in Montgomery County, which expressly prohibits “family responsibilities” discrimination in employment. The county ordinance defines “family responsibilities” as “the state of being financially or legally responsible for the support or care of a person . . . .” That certainly sounds like a person who might have childcare concerns, doesn’t it?

Note to Dream Dinners: You might want to reconsider your ad – and create a more flexible work environment – before your customers and the authorities find out.

Hello, I am sorry that you read the job annoucement that way. "No school or childcare concerns" just means that a potential employee should made necessary arrangement with childcare or school work, so they won't have any concerns when they come to work, as FAMILIES SHOULD COME FIRST! I am a mom and most of my employees are moms. Perhpas my choice of words is confusing but in no way we are discrimnating. I would have appreiciated an opportunity to clarify before your posting. Any questions, please contact me. Thanks!
WorkLife Law and Ms. Mohs exchanged emails about the ad (which actually appeared on a listserv for Silver Spring moms and not on DC Urban Moms). Ms. Mohs says she does not discriminate, and was merely trying to avoid problems she had had in the past with workers who had too much on their plate with family, school, and the like. WLL explained that all workers have issues in their outside lives (the ad could just as easily have said "no illness concerns" or "no second jobs" or "no money concerns). The law does not allow employers to single out parents, and particularly mothers, and not hire them because of problems with similar employees in the past. Ms. Mohs said she is not going to exclude anyone, including moms, and she is changing the wording on the ad. Our thanks to her and best wishes for a successful hire!
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