The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Issues Guidance on Employment Discrimination Based on Caregiver Responsibilities
Caregiving is quite common in the United States of America. Apart from people who have to care for their children, there are those who have to care for their elderly, ill, or disabled family members. According to a 2020 AARP report, almost one in five workers in the U.S. are also caregivers for elderly, sick, or special-needs adults.
Usually, people do not reveal their caregiving responsibilities because of fear that they may be discriminated against. For example, people keep their caregiving responsibilities a secret because they fear they might not get hired if they disclose such information. Also, people do not disclose their caregiving responsibilities because they fear they might lose their jobs or miss out on promotions. Unfortunately, some employers believe that a person with caregiving responsibilities cannot be fully committed to work.
Fortunately, some states have laws that protect individuals with caregiving responsibilities from being discriminated against in the workplace. If you are a worker or job applicant in New Jersey, you should know that the NJLAD does not allow discrimination against employees and applicants based on familial status. In simple words, familial status refers to the presence of a child below the age of eighteen in a household, whether the child is a biological child, foster child, adopted, or legally under the control of the adult in the house. Also, pregnant people and those working towards gaining custody of a minor child are protected under the NJLAD.
The EEOC Issues Guidance on Employment Discrimination Based on Caregiver Responsibilities
Indeed, the NJLAD does not mention people who care for relatives or other people living in their household who depend on them to meet their daily needs or for medical care. This is where the EEOC guidelines that were issued recently come in. On March 14, the EEOC issued a technical document that addresses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers who are also caregivers for spouses, children, older relatives, partners, people with disabilities, or other people. The document explains how caregiver discrimination may violate Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or other EEOC-enforced laws.
So, when does discrimination against employees or job applicants with caregiving responsibilities violate federal employment discrimination laws? According to the EEOC, caregiver discrimination is unlawful if, among other things, it is based on an employee’s or job applicant’s association with a person with a disability or the ethnicity, race, or other protected characteristic of the person for whom care is provided.
Apart from explaining when discrimination against applicants or employees with caregiving responsibilities violates federal employment discrimination laws, the EEOC guidance document also gives specific examples of unlawful discrimination against female employees or applicants with caregiving responsibilities. For instance, an employer would violate federal law if they refused to hire a female job applicant or promote a female worker based on the assumption that, since the employee or applicant is female, she should focus on caring for her young school-going children.