Caregiver discrimination, also called family responsibilities discrimination, is one of the most recent documented phenomena observed in employment law. It is defined as favoring one employee (or applicant) over another due to real or perceived family obligations. Employers will sometimes do this based on the potential degree of inconvenience the employee would be to the business. However, the legality of this practice will differ from situation to situation, and sometimes, it can cross the line into choices that are against the law. Understanding what caregiver discrimination actually is can help save you time and trouble.
Not Always Illegal
There are many categories of discrimination that are not against the law, regardless of their poor optics or inherent perceived unfairness. For example, weight discrimination is common, especially in visually oriented industries like fashion. Yet state and federal antidiscrimination laws such as the South Carolina Human Affairs Law cover only the specific types of discrimination specifically outlined in their statutes—race, sex, national origin, religion and disability being some of the more common types.
Caregiver discrimination usually falls under that pattern. It is not at all uncommon for people who are single parents or looking after elderly relatives to get the proverbial short end of the stick when it comes to promotions, overtime, and many other aspects of hiring and firing. However, because of the inherently gendered nature of caregiving in the U.S., many cases of caregiver discrimination turn out to be something different underneath.
Gender Discrimination Claims
Sometimes, discriminating against people based on family responsibilities can be seen as grounds for a complaint based on gender inequality, because very often, the rationales articulated for caregiver discrimination are actually based in sex stereotypes. For example, women with children are sometimes passed over for promotions or hiring because they are seen as less dependable, when there may be no indication that the person in question would actually be prone to absenteeism.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against on the basis of your family responsibilities, there may be very little recourse you can pursue. However, if that treatment is motivated by an underlying stereotype about sex or gender, you may be able to file a gender discrimination charge with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is important to keep in mind that while your employer might be motivated in part by legitimate business motives in discriminating, if any part of their action can be attributed to inappropriate motives, a charge can move forward.
Contact An Experienced Attorney
Family caregivers are the backbone of so many households that to discriminate against them offends many, and it can be illegal cases. If you believe that you have been mistreated in this manner, consulting an attorney to determine whether you may have a case is a good idea. Attorney A. Christopher Potts can sit down with you and help answer questions about your case. Contact our office today to set up an appointment.