How would you feel, as a parent, if your employer made comments such as “I bet if you had a nanny you could be at work more,” or “Don’t you feel bad leaving your kids at home while you’re at work?” Would you be okay with them or would you be offended?
Surprisingly, and with increased frequency, questions such as this have struck a nerve with many working parents. This is especially true for women, who feel that comments like this are not only offensive in nature but are crossing the line into the territory of discrimination.
For several years now, lawyers across the nation, including here in Indiana, have attempted to find a niche for parents who feel discriminated against simply because they chose to have a family. According to a 2006 New York Times article, because of a void in employment law, layers have had to create a new subcategory called family responsibilities discrimination. This new subcategory of litigation is not only taking shape and catching steam, but is becoming widely accepted among judges and juries who have awarded approximately two-thirds of plaintiffs suing because of this type of workplace discrimination.
Although the new terminology appears to be gaining acceptance in the court systems, many employment law experts are still advising people to speak with an attorney before taking their complaints to their local head of HR. Some experts warn that it is almost always better to be cautious when approaching situations like this because the potential legal fallout can be damaging, sometimes even to both sides involved.
The Harvard Business Review, “Will Working Mothers Take Your Company to Court?” Joan C. Williams and Amy J.C. Cuddy, September 2012
The New York Times, “Family Needs in the Legal Balance,” Lisa Belkin, July, 30, 2006