Are you family-friendly under EEOC guidelines

by on May 21, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center


New EEOC guidelines have just been issue with detailed advice on how HR can help ward off EEOC claims related to “family responsibility discrimination,” or “caregiver discrimination.” The new EEOC guidelines are timely, because you can expect to see more and more of these cases. One reason: The recession has made employees quick to pull the trigger on all EEOC claims, as evidenced by an upswing in filings. Meanwhile, economic distress puts extra pressure on families, leaving many breadwinners feeling run ragged – and resentful – between work and home demands.


Caregiver discrimination may be slipping past your radar, because it’s fuzzy. It doesn’t fit neatly into the traditional EEOC structure such as race or gender discrimination. For example, EEOC guidelines for caregiver bias could involve a violation of any of a number of employment laws, from Title VII to the Equal Pay Act to the FMLA. The EEOC document gives best practices guidance in two key areas: hiring/promotion and employment terms and conditions.


To avoid bias against job applicants and candidates for promotion, EEOC guidelines advise employers to:

  • Avoid questions about the applicant’s family
  • Interviewers should focus on the person’s qualifications. Don’t ask – even out of friendly curiosity – about children, plans to start a family, pregnancy or other family issues.

  • Don’t erect barriers to re-entry.
  • Such barriers could involve the way you assess the work experience of a candidate who’s been out of the workforce for a time to tend to family duties – like young children. Five years of experience, interrupted by two years away, should weigh as heavily as five unbroken years.

  • Tailor and apply caregiver neutral job descriptions.
  • Look for areas where existing policies may have an unfair impact on caregivers. Example: 24/7 availability may be legitimate in a firefighter’s job description, but making it requirement for, say, a marketing director could be unjustified and might unnecessarily shut out those with children or elderly parents.

  • Make sure everyone hears of open positions.
  • Notification is important when people are applying from within for open jobs or promotions. Example: Managers shouldn’t assume that certain employees – like mothers of young children or single parents – aren’t interested in a job that requires significant travel.


When it comes to the way people do their work, the EEOC guidelines suggest that employers:

  • Encourage flexible work arrangements.
  • Depending on your business, consider flextime, where people vary their arrival and departure hours; flex weeks, which may involve such configurations as 4 days x 10 hours; or telecommuting/work-from home. Any of these may help employees with caregiver duties manage work and home burdens.

  • Considering reduced-time options.
  • Note: Although some employers deny benefits to part-time workers, it’s a best practice to give them salary and benefits proportional to their full-time colleagues. Job sharing is another option that’s favorable to caregivers.

  • Watching family-friendliness of overtime.
  • If a voluntary overtime system won’t meet organizational needs, allow employees to schedule OT in advance so they can arrange for such things as child care.

  • Making sure leave policies are gender-neutral.
  • One way employers run afoul of caregiver discrimination is assuming it’s gender-related. If maternity leave is available, for instance, paternity leave should be, too, and managers must not discourage men from taking it.

It’s up to line managers, of course, to implement many of these new EEOC guidelines. Work with your managers to be sure they understand the risks of caregiver discrimination and how to avoid claims.

See: practices.html

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