EEOC Recommends Best Practices to Prevent Caregiver Discrimination
June 16, 2009
The EEOC recently issued guidance offering suggestions for "best practices" for employers to remove barriers to equal employment opportunities rooted in stereotypes about workers with caregiver responsibilities.
The guidance is available at: http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/caregiver-best-practices.html.
While federal employment discrimination laws do not list "caregiver status" as a protected characteristic, the EEOC takes the position that disparate treatment of employees who care for children, parents, or disabled family members may amount to discrimination based upon sex, race, disability, or other protected characteristics under federal equal employment opportunity laws. Some examples of "best practices" suggested by the EEOC include:
- Including caregiver status in EEO policies;
- Educating managers about work-life policies and caregiver discrimination;
- Focusing on applicants' qualifications, and refraining from asking questions about an applicant's or employee's children, plans to start a family, pregnancy, or other caregiver-related issues during interviews or performance reviews;
- Ensuring job openings and promotions are communicated to all eligible employees rather than assuming certain employees (i.e., mothers of young children or single parents) will not be interested in positions or assignments that require significant travel or long hours;
- Implementing recruitment practices that remove barriers to re-entry for individuals who have taken leaves of absence from the workforce due to caregiver responsibilities;
- Reviewing workplace policies that limit employee flexibility to ensure they are necessary to business operations, and encouraging employees to request flexible work arrangements that allow them to balance work and caregiver responsibilities;
- Providing reasonable personal or sick leave to allow employees to engage in caregiving even if not legally required to do so; and
- Promoting an inclusive workplace that awards both full-time employees and those employees who work part-time or participate in flex-time arrangements.
These EEOC guidelines are not binding. However, they do provide useful insight as to what the EEOC believes employers should be doing to avoid caregiver discrimination -- and as to the kinds of practices that may draw EEOC scrutiny as it steps up its enforcement efforts under the new administration.