Despite the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) focus on an employer’s responsibilities to caregivers, including last year’s issuance of Employer Best Practices for Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities, a recent study shows that low wage workers are still facing discrimination. The Center for WorkLife Law has recently issued a report: Poor, Pregnant, and Fired: Caregiver Discrimination Against Low-Wage Workers (PDF). The report is a review of more than 2600 cases brought by low-wage hourly workers. The report notes that most media coverage and attention to the issue has focused almost exclusively on professional women and salaried workers, for whom hours and benefits may afford more flexibility. Authors say that policy efforts need to extend to middle- and low-wage workers.
Employees with low wage, hourly pay are more likely to need more than one job to make ends meet. They are less likely to have benefits such as paid sick days and flexible schedules. Plus, low-wage workers are often employed by smaller employers who are not covered by FMLA’s 50+ employee threshold.
The report discusses six discriminatory patterns that emerged:

  • Extreme hostility to pregnancy in low-wage workplaces.
  • A near total lack of flexibility in many low-wage jobs.
  • Low-wage workers treated disrespectfully, or even harassed,at work.
  • Low-wage workers denied their legal rights around caregiving.
  • Hostility to low-income men who play caregiving roles.
  • Harsher treatment of mothers of color than white mothers.

Advice for employers
The report concludes with some advice for various stakeholders. We have reprinted the recommendations for employers below:

For employers, FRD (family responsibilities discrimination) lawsuits expose the need for consistent workplace policies and greater training at all levels of the organization. Front-line supervisors of low-wage workers need to be trained and supervised to prevent caregiver discrimination and harassment and to handle family and medical leave requests effectively. In addition, employers should consider policy changes where feasible to alleviate the most common conflicts for low-wage workers, especially where policies lead to high turnover—and lawsuits. Cases document that even small amounts of flexibility, slight changes to no-fault attendance policies, or allowing minimal adjustments for pregnant workers, could make a difference in keeping experienced employees in their jobs.

Note: Thanks to Workplace Prof Blog for the pointer to this study.
Prior posts on caregiving
The high cost of caregiving: what employers can do
7 blogs that focus on work-life issues
Caregiver resources
Resources for elder caregivers

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