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How are Parents Protected from Discrimination?

If you’re a parent, this is likely the most important role in your life. Parents who juggle children and a career are constantly busy, but they find ways to make it work. Unfortunately, some parents might be treated differently in the workplace for having children. This can give them fewer opportunities at work, make it difficult for them to do their work, and cause them a great deal of additional stress. If you believe you’ve been treated differently at work because of your status as a parent, you might be wondering if you have an employment discrimination case for parental discrimination.

Bantle & Levy can help you understand what rights and protections you have as a parent in the workplace.

What is Familial Status Discrimination?

While most people are already familiar with types of discrimination such as race, gender, and religion, one that isn’t always talked about as frequently is familial discrimination. This type of discrimination affects people with various familial responsibilities. Although an employee’s familial status may not affect their job performance, their employer may treat them unfairly due to perceptions they have about working parents.

While parents do experience familial discrimination, it affects more than just people with children. Employees who need to care for any relatives, such as elderly parents, can experience familial status discrimination, which is sometimes referred to as caregiver discrimination.

Does the EEOC Protect Parents from Discrimination?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces various laws that protect employees from discrimination based on the following protected classes:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Genetic Information

Because of this, the EEOC doesn’t directly protect parents from discrimination, but parental discrimination can often involve another type of discrimination that the EEOC does protect employees from, such as sex or disability.

New York Protections for Parents in the Workplace

The EEOC exists to protect employees from different types of discrimination. Although it doesn’t specifically list familial status as a protected class, employees in New York have other protections in place for this type of discrimination.

The New York Human Rights Law makes it unlawful for employees to discriminate against employees for their familial status. This not only applies to parents with biological children, but anyone currently with or trying to obtain legal custody of someone under the age of 18. An example would be grandparents who care for their grandchildren.

While there are no federal protections for parents, New York state laws do provide this. The New York Human Rights Law also protects employees from retaliation if they make a familial discrimination claim.

Protections for Pregnant Employees

Female employees can be discriminated against for their parental status while they’re still pregnant or if their employer thinks they may become pregnant in the future. For example, some employers may not hire or promote young women for the fear that they may become pregnant in the future and require maternity leave. Pregnancy discrimination can not only be considered discriminating against someone for their status as an expecting parent, but also for their gender.

While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 doesn’t give protections to all parents who experience discrimination in the workplace, it was amended with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 to protect pregnant employees from discrimination. This makes it unlawful to discriminate based on pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions related to pregnancy.

Family and Medical Leave Act

Another way parents may be protected from discrimination in certain situations is under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The federal law allows employees who qualify to take up to 12 weeks in a one-year period off if they experience medical issues or to care for a family member who has a medical issue.

Parents may use FMLA to allow them to have time off to care for their child. Employees have rights surrounding FMLA and cannot be discriminated against for taking this time off. If a parent believes they were unfairly denied FMLA to care for their child, they may be able to take action against their employer.

Contact Bantle & Levy For Help Standing Up to Parental Discrimination

Having children doesn’t affect what kind of employee you are. Employees need to know what their rights are in the workplace to ensure they know when they’re being unlawfully discriminated against. If you’re treated differently in your workplace because you have children, know that this is illegal and isn’t something you need to put up with. At Bantle & Levy, we provide legal services for employees who suffer from familial status discrimination to help them receive fair and equal treatment in the workplace.

Contact our New York employment discrimination lawyers today so that we can learn more about your experience.

Bantle & Levy

Lee Bantle is a partner at Bantle & Levy LLP. He has extensive legal expertise, admitted to the bars of the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. With a distinguished academic background and clerkship experience, he has been recognized as a top-rated civil rights attorney and esteemed lawyer. In addition to his successful career, he has actively contributed to various legal organizations and serves as a faculty member for NYU's Annual Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges.

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