Thursday, January 29, 2015
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Just published, this first-of-its-kind legal treatise provides a comprehensive explanation of the rights and obligations of employers and employees when employees are pregnant, have young children, or act as caregivers for aging parents. Here are some of the topics covered by the treatise:
- Federal laws prohibiting FRD. The treatise covers the federal laws used by plaintiffs' lawyers to bring FRD claims, including Title VII, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, ERISA, and the Equal Pay Act. The use of each law is described in detail, with practice pointers for both plaintiffs' and management-side lawyers and a collection of relevant case law by jurisdiction.
- State-by-state overview of laws. In addition to the federal laws that govern FRD, many states, counties, and cities have laws that cover family caregivers. Here are just a few of the jurisdictions that have FRD laws: Minnesota, Alaska, District of Columbia, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. There are more than 90 additional jurisdictions.
- Maternity and paternity leave. In addition to covering leave for new parents under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the treatise answers such questions as: Do employees have a right to maternity leave under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act? Which states require employers to give maternity leave? Does an employer break the law if it refuses to give new fathers the same amount of leave as new mothers? How much leave can an employee take and still have his or her job held open? Can employers ask employees to work while they are on leave? When does an employer have to extend the employee's leave?
- Pregnancy Accommodation. The treatise discusses the various sources of employers' obligations to provide accommodations to pregnant employees, including newly-enacted state laws. It provides guidelines from case law, regulations, and medical professionals for determining appropriate accommodations.
- Discrimination based on association with a family member who has a disability. An employer who allows employees to change their schedules to attend classes or participate in sports may face a discrimination lawsuit if it does not similarly allow employees to change their schedules to care for a family member with a disability. This is just one example of how the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar state laws play a role in FRD.
- Investigation of FRD complaints. The treatise provides a roadmap for HR professionals to use in handling complaints of discrimination from employees.
- FRD Prevention Program. Employers can reduce their likelihood of being sued for FRD and improve their ability to manage caregiving employees, and this treatise shows how.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Getting and keeping the best male employees requires not only providing flexibility but also supporting it, a new study by the Working Mother Research Institute says. Most men surveyed are working flexibly (77%), and most said their employers encourage flexible work (62%).
The 1000 men surveyed were mostly white, college-educated, breadwinners who were dads, but a significant number were single and child-free. Of the respondents who work flexibly, 66% do so as needed, and 35% have regular flex schedules. Telecommuting was the most common form of flexibility, and more than half would choose to work part-time if they could do so and still have a meaningful career. Those who worked flexibly reported greater work satisfaction, more loyalty, higher morale, better productivity, more collegiality, and better communications with their teams.
In the past, employers offered flexible work programs with finger crossed behind their backs: all savvy employees knew that they better not use the programs if they wanted to get ahead. That no longer appears to be the case for the employers of most of the male respondents. A little more than a quarter of the men said, however, that their employers could encourage flex but do not. Compared to men whose employers encouraged flex, men whose employers did not encourage flex reported being less satisfied with: compensation, respect, opportunity to develop skills, job security, relationships with co-workers, support from managers, and career prospects. The differences were not small – it is worth reading the report just to see the dramatic impact that an employer’s attitude toward flexibility can have on employees.
So, just what should an employer do to encourage flexibility? The report suggests that a key step is for employers to eliminate stigma against those who work flexibly, particularly those who work part-time.
Eliminating flexibility stigma requires serious effort, and usually involves: identifying the types of stigma present in a company, how it is expressed, and where its effects are felt; developing the company’s unique business case for eliminating flexibility stigma; creating awareness about flexibility bias and educating supervisors and employees about how they can reduce it; communicating support for flexible work verbally and nonverbally throughout the company; and putting in place systems for monitoring stigma. Like any change initiative, it requires the leadership of top management, and the sustained commitment of HR. As shown by the study, companies that undertake the effort will be amply rewarded.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Monday, January 7, 2013
- Accommodation of Pregnant Workers. The SEP sets out the EEOC’s National Priorities, which include addressing “emerging and developing issues” such as pregnancy accommodation. Many employers think that they do not need to give pregnant employees additional breaks or chairs or help with lifting, but recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act suggests that they do. Employers wanting to avoid becoming a test case for the EEOC can begin by reviewing the types of accommodations they have made for workers with non-pregnancy-related disabilities, injuries, and illnesses and making similar accommodations for pregnant workers if it would help them to continue to work. Additional preventative steps include educating supervisors about the business benefits of retaining pregnant workers and encouraging them to be creative in crafting reasonable accommodations as necessary.
- Equal Pay. The EEOC also intends to prioritize enforcement of Equal Pay laws. Caregivers are often paid less than other workers, typically because of unexamined assumptions about their competence, commitment and value. Stuart Ishimaru, when he was acting Chair of the EEOC, highlighted this as an area of concern for the Commission. This should be an area of concern for employers, who may want to undertake a review of compensation with caregiving status in mind. Training HR and supervisors to recognize and eliminate the biases that give rise to unequal pay for caregivers would be an effective prevention step.
- Harassment of caregivers. In addition, the EEOC plans to step up its enforcement of anti-harassment laws. Complaints by employees with family caregiving obligations often include allegations of sex-based harassment, such as men being ridiculed and ostracized for taking time off to care for family members because caregiving is “women’s work” and mothers of young children being yelled at, disciplined unfairly, and being given undesirable work in an effort to make them quit because supervisors assume that they will not be good workers. The EEOC has already recognized such harassment in its Enforcement Guidance on caregiver discrimination. Employers would be well advised to make sure that supervisors understand that harassment based on caregiving is illegal. Ensuring that HR is prepared to investigate and address harassment complaints from caregivers would also be a wise prevention step.