The EEOC has published its new Employer Best Practices For Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities. Here are the highlights.

Background

  • The document provides “suggestions for best practices that employers may adopt to reduce the chance of EEO violations against caregivers, and to remove barriers against equal employment opportunity.”
  • “Caregiver” is defined generally as those who care for spouses, children, parents, elderly family members and relatives with disabilities.
  • Employers with flexible workplace policies that promote healthy work/life balance “may not only experience decreased complaints of unlawful discrimination, but may also benefit their workers, their customer base, and their bottom line.”

Best Practices

The EEOC offers a variety of excellent suggestions, many of which are generally applicable to all forms of discrimination and should already be in place. Here are some of the specific recommendations:

  • train managers about legal obligations related to caregiver responsibilities, particularly the ADA, FMLA and¬†Pregnancy Discrimination Act;
  • develop and enforce EEO policies to prevent caregiver discrimination;
  • provide a contact person for questions and complaints;
  • focus on job-related non-discriminatory business reasons for all employment decisions;
  • develop specific, job-related qualification standards for each position that accurately reflect the duties, functions and competencies of the job;
  • monitor and adjust performance and compensation decisions to ensure consistency and fairness;
  • remove potential barriers to an employee’s return to work following leave;
  • respond to all complaints of discrimination efficiently and effectively; and
  • avoid any form of retaliation.

Avoid Stereotypes

The EEOC urges employers to avoid stereotypes regarding caregivers, including assumptions that:

  • female employees prefer to spend time with their families rather than at work;
  • employees who take advantage of flexible or part-time work arrangements are less committed than other employees;
  • employees’ caregiving duties will interfere with their ability to succeed in fast-paced work environments; and
  • male employees don’t (or shouldn’t) have significant caregiver responsibilities.

Prohibited Conduct

The EEOC provides several examples of prohibited conduct, including:

  • asking female (but not male) applicants or employees about caregiver responsibilities;
  • making stereotypical comments about caregivers or pregnant employees;
  • steering caregivers to lower-paid or less prestigious positions;
  • providing accommodations for temporary medical conditions but not for pregnancy; and
  • treating employees without caregiver responsibilities more favorably than those with caregiver responsibilities.

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