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Many people must juggle family responsibilities with their work. Unfortunately, employers are not always understanding when these matters affects an employee’s performance. Depending on the circumstances, an individual may be protected from adverse treatment arising from his or her family responsibilities. If you have a legal issue involving an Atlanta workplace, the employment discrimination lawyers at Parks, Chesin & Walbert can offer advice.Caregiving in the United States
Many employees have family responsibilities that include caring for their children. Family responsibilities may also include caring for an aging parent or another relative with a disability. According to the 2000 Census, approximately 28% of families included a person with a disability. A large number of employees are therefore affected by caregiving and family responsibilities.Family Responsibility Discrimination
Family responsibilities include caregiving for children, a seriously ill spouse, or an elderly parent. Caregivers are not a protected class under federal law, so discrimination based on caregiving or family responsibilities is not necessarily prohibited. Family responsibility discrimination can be illegal if the caregiver is subjected to unlawful disparate treatment based on sex, race, or another protected characteristic. In such cases, the discrimination may be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Examples of this type of discrimination may include denying women with children job opportunities that are available to men with children, reassigning or limiting a pregnant woman’s job duties, or denying a man a request for leave to care for a child when women are regularly granted leave under the same circumstances.
It is also important to remember that Title VII, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, prohibits discrimination based on sex, which includes discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. Some forms of discrimination that may be described as family responsibility discrimination may also be based on pregnancy or childbirth.
Additionally, if an employee faces discrimination based on his or her association with a person who has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the employer may be in violation of the ADA. This form of discrimination may include refusing to hire or promote the parent of a child with a disability.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) enforces both Title VII and the ADA. To pursue a claim based on either law, the employee must file a charge with the EEOC within 180 days of the discrimination.Family and Medical Leave Act
An important law for caregivers to be familiar with is the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The FMLA allows qualifying employees as much as 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a number of reasons primarily related to caregiving, family responsibilities, or the employee’s own health. Permitted reasons include childbirth, adoption, foster care placement, and bonding with the child after those occurrences. An employee may also take leave to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition. Additionally, qualifying employees are entitled to leave in certain circumstances surrounding an immediate family member’s military service. Furthermore, an employee may be entitled to unpaid leave for 26 weeks to take care of a member of the military with a serious injury or illness.
While the employee is on leave, the employer must maintain the employee’s group health plan under the same conditions that would apply if he or she were not on leave. The employee’s job, or an equivalent job, must be available to the employee upon his or her return.
The FMLA does not apply to all employers. It applies to government agencies and private employers with 50 or more employees but does not apply to small employers in the private sector. Furthermore, even if the employer is covered by the FMLA, not all employees may qualify for it. The employee must work at a location with 50 or more employees within 75 miles. The employee must have worked for the employer for a year and have logged 1,250 hours of work time during the past 12 months.
Unlike Title VII and the ADA, the FMLA is not administered by the EEOC. Instead, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing the FMLA.Multiple Claims
Discrimination often involves multiple incidents and a variety of actions. In some circumstances, an employee may have claims under Title VII, the ADA, and the FMLA. Regardless of which law the employee’s claims fall under, the employer is prohibited from retaliating against the employee.Skilled Legal Guidance for Atlanta Employers and Employees
Having served both employers and employees throughout the Atlanta region and beyond, the pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert can help you determine the applicable laws and your rights and responsibilities under them. Contact us online or call 404-873-8048.