Do You Face a Lawsuit from Mr. Mom?
The number of men filing lawsuits claiming family responsibilities discrimination by employers has tripled. The recession had a disproportionate impact on men, causing many to become the primary caregiver in the family, rather than the primary breadwinner. As men take on increasing responsibility at home, employers need to be aware of their obligations with respect to family responsibilities and must ensure that policies are applied in a gender-neutral fashion. While there is no overarching federal law involving family responsibilities discrimination yet, cases can arise under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, and various state laws.
Some men are filing cases alleging they are treated differently from women with regard to family responsibilities. For example, women are regularly given time off for parent-teacher conferences, while men are expected to send their wives instead. Also, women are allowed to work from home when their children are sick, while men are expected to come to the office.
This kind of discrimination will rarely find its way into written policies, but may occur when supervisors subjectively apply the policy to an employee’s request. Ensure your supervisors are trained to avoid this bias and institute gender-neutral written guidelines to be consulted when making such decisions. If a request is denied, supervisors should draft a quick internal memo explaining the reason for denial. That way, if an employee says he was denied the opportunity to telecommute because he is male (or any other protected status, for that matter), you will have contemporaneous evidence that it was for a non-discriminatory reason, such as job responsibilities that cannot be performed remotely.
Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on civil rights issues and employment laws in general. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.965.0560.