Do maternity leave laws cause discrimination?

by on June 23, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Maternity leave laws trigger the new “glass ceiling”

You might think you’re doing new parents a big favor by holding back on a promotion, or not assigning a big new project until they settle into their new role at home.

But if you try to lighten a worker/parent’s load without having been asked for help, you could be setting your firm up for a battle under maternity leave laws.

A new study that tracked discrimination lawsuits where employees won settlements or awards shows an emerging trend toward employment discrimination against people exercising their rights under maternity leave laws. In fact, 75% of the cases reviewed by the authors were filed after 1990.

The report’s authors point out that sometimes when employers think they’re being helpful they’re practicing “prescriptive stereotyping.” In other words, they’re acting on their own assumptions about work-life balance.

Bottom line: Let new moms and dads decide for themselves what, if any, changes they need in their schedules or work arrangements. Be supportive, but don’t make assumptions.

Source: “The New Glass Ceiling: When Mothers and Fathers Sue for Discrimination,” by Joan Williams and Nancy Segal, American University’s Program on Gender, Work & Family

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