Family Responsibility and Caregiver Discrimination

Our Boston family caregiver discrimination lawyers represent employees who have been discriminated against because of family leave or family caregiver status. Many workers struggle with the competing demands of raising a family or taking care of sick or elderly loved ones and maintaining their employment. As a result, employees contemplating taking a leave from work or returning to work after taking a leave face many questions about their legal rights in the workplace, which is governed by a broad array of state and federal laws, and individual company policies.

Parents have a right to take time off to care for a baby after it is born or adopted. This is often referred to as parental leave. Under the current Massachusetts law, employees are entitled to eight weeks of unpaid parental leave. In 2018, Massachusetts passed a law that goes into effect in 2021 and will require employers to provide twelve weeks of paid leave.

All parents have a right to care for their children without fear of repercussions at work. Both federal and Massachusetts laws guarantee leave to men after the birth or adoption of a child: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made clear that, under Title VII, “similarly situated men and women” must receive parental leave “on the same terms.” While the law is clear on this issue, employers do not always recognize men’s rights to parental leave or paternity leave. Although federal and Massachusetts law do not protect caregivers as a specific class of people, the EEOC has recognized that employees with caregiving responsibilities face discrimination in the workplace related to these responsibilities. Caregiver or family responsibility discrimination arises in several situations: Employers violate federal and state law if they treat caregivers differently based on sexist stereotypes; an employer cannot, for example, deny a mother a promotion based on the false assumption that her kids will distract her from managerial responsibilities while elevating fathers without a second thought to their ability to balance work and family. An employer likewise cannot discriminate against a father for playing an active caregiving role in his children’s lives (and thereby refusing to conform to the gender stereotype that men do not provide childcare). Nor, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, can an employer discriminate against employees based on their association with a disabled person; an employer cannot, for example, fail to hire a man caring for his blind father because the employer fears that the man will be overwhelmed by his demands at home. An employee who has caregiving responsibilities for a family member may also be entitled to protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) when that employee takes time off to care for a family member.

Our Boston family responsibility discrimination lawyers’ strong advocacy in this area has helped employees obtain substantial settlements when their rights are violated. This area of the law continues to evolve. Employers do not always recognize that they are discriminating when they make assumptions based on stereotypes or based on their views of whether an employee can meet their obligations at home and at work. We have the expertise to evaluate these complex potential claims, negotiate with employers, and to litigate cases in a variety of forums, including the MCAD, EEOC, and state and federal courts.

If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your caregiver status, contact Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein at 617-742-6020 to speak with a pregnancy discrimination lawyer.

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