At Company X, marketing analyst Jon has just asked his manager Susan if he can work from home three days a week. He and his wife are sharing responsibility for getting their two toddlers to preschool in the morning and back home again in mid-afternoon.

Susan gives her permission, but wonders if Jon will lose focus on his job.

And the next time a promotion becomes available – a promotion that Jon is amply qualified for – Susan doesn’t consider Jon for it. Another employee, who seems to live only for her work, gets the nod.

A few weeks later, Susan gets a notice that Jon is taking legal action against the company. But why?

Susan made faulty assumptions about Jon. She was guilty of Family Responsibilities Discrimination – a new and growing category of lawsuit.

Wait a minute. Did Congress suddenly pass a new employment discrimination law while you weren’t watching? No. Family Responsibilities Discrimination – or FRD – is a new lens, created by employment lawyers, to focus several existing laws on employers who treat employees inequitably because they have caregiving duties at home.

FRD, like other kinds of discrimination, is largely about false assumptions. Here are three such assumptions that are likely to cause you FRD trouble:

  • “My employee’s performance will suffer because of demands at home.” That may be true, but you can’t assume it; you have to wait and see.
  • “Women should be the primary caregivers.” Policies like parental leave apply equally to men and women.
  • “The rules apply only to immediate family.” Care for extended family may be protected, too, especially when disabilities are involved.

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