- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released guidance March 14 warning employers not to engage in illegal caregiving discrimination.
- Caregiving discrimination violates anti-discrimination laws when the misconduct is based on certain protected characteristics of an applicant or worker. These characteristics include: sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.
- "As the pandemic evolves, and the country moves to a new normal, we cannot assume caregiving obligations have ended," EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said in the agency's announcement. "By ensuring that caregivers know their rights and employers understand their responsibilities, the EEOC will help ensure that America's recovery from the pandemic is an equitable one."
EEOC explored the numerous ways organizations can fall into illegal caregiving discrimination, framing its guidance in a call to employers to emerge from the pandemic — and its continuing ramifications for caregivers — with equitable employment practices.
An employer may not, for instance, refuse to hire a woman because it believed she would be busy caring for young children who attend remote school. Such a decision would be based on sex stereotypes compounded by the pandemic, EEOC said. Likewise, an employer cannot deny men leave to care for a family member if it grants similar requests made by women. Employers should also be careful not to discriminate against LGBTQ workers making caregiving requests. They may not, for instance, ask for proof of a family relationship with the individual needing care if they do not make such requests of straight employees.
EEOC noted that the pandemic did not guarantee caregivers accommodations like telework or flexible scheduling under federal anti-discrimination laws.
In announcing the guidance, agency leaders noted the pandemic heightened a cultural awareness of caregivers' role in society. "The real-world scenarios in this technical assistance show how federal EEO laws apply to employees who have caregiving responsibilities and how employers can, within those laws, better support caregivers in balancing work and family responsibilities," EEOC Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuels said in the press release.