Protecting Parents from Workplace Discrimination


We may say as a country that we value families and mothers, but a rise in job discrimination complaints by moms highlights how far most workplaces are from that ideal.  Yesterday, to help clarify the responsibilities of employers, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidelines on what kinds of discrimination against parents is illegal. 

Under federal law, the guidelines explain, an employer cannot encourage career advancement for men with children, while denying promotions to women with children or otherwise stereotyping working women with children as less able to cope than their male counterparts. 

But here's the sad and somewhat shocking part.  Nothing in federal law stops an employer from discriminating against parents generally:

Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based solely on parental or other caregiver status, so an employer does not generally violate Title VII’s disparate treatment proscription if, for example, it treats working mothers and working fathers in a similar unfavorable (or favorable) manner as compared to childless workers.

While many states prohibit discrimination based on marital status, only Alaska and the District of Columbia explicitly protect parents as a class from discrimination in the workplace.  Pennsylvania is considering a bill to ban discrimination based on "familial status" as well as "marital status."  A key way to stop discrimination against parents, especially moms, is to bar employers from even asking in interviews whether an applicant is married or has kids, an important provision of the proposed Pennsylvania law patterned on other states which bar such questions.   MomsRising is focusing national attention on the campaign with a petition in support of the Pennsylvania bill, a step to bringing greater consciousness of the problem to states around the country.



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