Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Caregiver Issues in the Workplace

Be careful in handling how you treat employees who are caregivers. If a worker must miss time from work as a result of family responsibilities, the employer may be liable for discrimination.

Increasingly, lawsuits have been filed by employees over caregiving responsibilities. Unlike other types of discrimination, which employers prevail in about 90 percent of the cases, plaintiffs have succeeded in about half of these cases. Claims of this sort arise over pregnancy and maternity leave, elder care, care for sick children, care for ill spouse, for newborn care by fathers or adoptive parents, and care for a disabled family member. Most of the cases have been brought by female workers.

In addition, even if an employer settles these type of cases, settlements can be $500,000 or more, making it very expense to be sued, let alone defend, such claims. Claims may arise out of the Family & Medical Leave Act, Title VII, or other state or federal discrimination laws.

It is very important to establish an effective supervisor training program to prevent supervisors from acting with bias when employees have family responsibilities that may conflict with workplace obligations.

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