Six Ways You Might Be Discriminated Against If You Put Family First

discriminationWhile there's no specific law covering discrimination against employees due to family responsibilities, there are laws that may protect you if your employer is big enough.

1. Sick/disabled family members

If an immediate family member (or you) has a medical condition that requires regular doctor's appointments, you may well be entitled to up to 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave. This leave can be intermittent, which means that you get up to about 60 days a year or 480 hours. (That's a whole lot of doctor's appointments.)

This applies only if you need to miss work for a serious medical condition of a family member, AND your employer has at least 50 employees, AND you've been there at least a year.

If you know you will need this type of leave, make sure that you notify HR in advance so you make sure you're covered. If you think you qualify and they claim you don't, then contact an employment lawyer in your state to discuss your rights.

2. Sex stereotyping

There's no law making sexual stereotyping illegal, but it may fall within sex discrimination if your employer has 15 or more employees. For instance, the boss who assumes that, because you are pregnant, you won't want to come back to work, is engaging in sex discrimination. Men who are primary custodians of kids, but who don't get the same leave time and schedule flexibility as women, may have sex discrimination claims.

If the boss assumes that you, as a woman, will be the primary caregiver when you adopt and wont be able to travel, that may be discrimination. Men who take paternity leave also can't be treated differently than women who take maternity leave.

3. Family and medical leave

For a serious health condition or pregnancy of yourself or a family member, you may be able to get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. This applies only if your company has at least 50 employees, and you've been there at least a year.

The leave can be intermittent, as I discussed above, or continuous. If you take twelve weeks and one day of leave, you're no longer protected. If you are protected under FMLA, you have to be restored to the same or equivalent position.

Even if you exceeded your 12 weeks, the employer can't use your leave to deny you an open position when you're ready to return. If you're pregnant, find out if you're covered or will be covered under FMLA.

4. Pregnancy

An employer can't fire, discipline, refuse to hire or promote you because you're pregnant, because of assumptions about the pregnancy and what you'll be able to do, or because of childbirth. This applies only if your employer has 15 or more employees.

If you need light duty, it gets trickier. They have to give light duty only if they give it for any other temporarily disabled employee.

Company insurance must cover pregnancy, and benefits for leaves must be the same as non-pregnancy leaves. Although you may want to wait until you're showing before you tell management, if you have morning sickness, you'd probably should make that known so they don't accuse you of excessive absenteeism. If you qualify for FMLA leave, you should apply for intermittent leave for morning sickness.

Once you return, breast feeding is also protected. If you need to take time to pump, the employer can't discriminate against you for this or deny you breaks to pump breast milk.

5. Marital status

Some states (e.g., Florida, Illinois, California, Maryland, and many others) and government employers have laws saying it's illegal to discriminate on the basis of the fact that an employee is married or unmarried. However, most employers still can discriminate against you based on being married to a particular person (such as anti-nepotism policies). If the employer has anti-nepotism policies saying that two spouses can't work together or can't supervise each other, they still can't discriminate based on gender (firing only the female employee, as an example).

You also can't be discriminated against based on your association with someone in a protected category, such as disability, race, religion, or national origin.

6. Harassment

Harassment based on any of these categories also is illegal. However, the Supreme Court says that you need to report such harassment if there's a published harassment policy. I suggest doing it in writing so that they can't deny you reported it, and give them a chance to correct the situation. If you fail to report it, you may be forever barred from suing for the harassment.

Once you're demoted, suspended without pay, denied a position or promotion, or terminated, the laws protect you, whether or not you report it to the employer first. If you've been demoted, denied a promotion, denied a position, suspended without pay, or terminated, and you believe it was because of family responsibilities, contact an attorney who handles employment law in your state to discuss your options.

Next: 10 Workplace Rights You Think You Have -- But Don't

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Federal Employee

I just found out that I was passed on a job at first because I am married and have a child. I did eventually get the job when the chosen candidate turned down the position offer. It sounds like that is a form of discrimination if I am reading this correctly. What grounds does a person have in an event like this. I am not being treated unfavorably by one of the individuals that did not want to hire me based on my family status. This person has a reputation for treating people poorly though so I can't say that it is because of my family definitively. However, if the 2 out of 3 hiring officials wanted to pass me up because I have a wife and child, that leaves a lot to be questioned about opportunity to advance. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

April 28 2015 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Federal Employee's comment
Federal Employee

Sorry, that was supposed to read... "I am NOW being treated unfavorably..."

April 28 2015 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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June 26 2011 at 8:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

too bad they are not black, then they would get everything free

June 16 2011 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have my own story about being a devoted employee and working to ensure the company become more sucessfull. I was so proud to work for a man I admired because he talked the talk and walked the walk of a christian businessman who built a company on being morally straight. When there was a down turn in the demand for our products, he keep all the employees on payroll. He never took personal credit for things he did for his fellow man although , I know of many wonderful things he did. Everyone loved that man. He died and the younger generation took over and just before I could retire, I came down with an illness but with the help of medication I could still do my job, but myself and another employee who was about to retire were no longer needed. As I left the building no one spoke to me , fear had taken hold of the employees. One person who I thought was my good friend called me on the phone later to say he was sorry and he knew the company had just lost one of its best men his wife had just come down with cancer and he needed his job. I have been blessed many times over never getting mad at the childish way I was released. I am now in better health and financially I am doing great. I thank God everyday for allowing me to work with my Chriatian Mentor. It was his wish that myself and 3 oher key employees would become the owners of the business but died before arrangments ere made.

June 16 2011 at 3:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One of my employers motto was, If you do a good job, you get to keep it.

June 01 2011 at 7:06 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cliffy934's comment

Unfortunatly in a lot of companies this doesn't apply anymore. I work for a big company ( hospital, yes hospitals are companies too that don't really care about patients or their associates, just the bottom line, a lot of Hospitals business practices are really not much better than Wall Street. ) and saw first hand some one with fmla get fired. Her husband has cancer she called off one to many times and was let go. Luckily she had 30 years service there and still received her pension.
I dont want tp paint a broad brush though and accuse or say all companies are bad, just the majority. I have a friend ( Retired Colonol from the Air Force ) and we were talking about economic affairs and how employess are treated in this country one evening and this came from his mouth. He said that believe it or not the recently deceased Osama Bin Laden, (dirt bag he was a glad he is no longer among the living) took better care of his people than companies here in America take care of their own.

June 06 2011 at 6:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This is an extremely complex issue, and where the lines get drawn is often very muddy and varies from employer to employer ... and discriminatory practices aren't always easy to define. I've had a very fortunate career and never ran into such issues. My first boss had three rules for his employees: 1) Don't take work home with you in the evenings. 2) Don't work on the weekends. 3) Give me an honest day's work ... on your hours. 4) Never come to the office if you're needed at home. The result? We worked longer hours and produced more because of freedom he gave us. I carried that philosophy forward as I became a boss, and followed his lead for the next 40 years. Most enlightened man.

June 01 2011 at 5:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bartonlyle's comment

wish it was still like that. The companies now just use the well there are others willing to do that job or they hold job over your head and have no where to go becauce the HR always sides with the bosses,

June 01 2011 at 6:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lvdiceman's comment

Do you really imagine that when you are dissatisfied with your emplyer, "somewhere to go" is comprised of the Human Resources Department?

June 02 2011 at 8:35 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
Jane & John

first this is not about jobs its about the gonernment out sourceing government contractsand if you start there jobs will follow beside big corporations are getting off by eliminating paying into social security and medicare also making the government to pay first then asking for tax breaks now ask yourself what is the size of big corporations and what income level is used to determine this.Corporations , franchise, incorporation are all business words but this has and impacton on our lives so made in America is a joke due to the language used. Think people not what the media says but what they don't say. For every illegal brought into the united states we as Americans pay the way not big business

June 01 2011 at 4:02 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jane & John's comment

Let me guess. Your illiteracy is also the fault of those big mean corporations? Whoda thunk!

June 01 2011 at 4:28 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bggdg's comment

My sentiments exactly, bggdg!!!!!

June 16 2011 at 4:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

As somone who has no children, I see the discrimination going mostly the other way.People with families always seem to get preferential treatment for vacations,day schedule (as opposed to evening or nights) and weekends off.I worked over 15 straight Super Bowls because the "family" people HAVE to have it off.Then there are the other holidays.And do not get me started about people with sick little kids and having to work shorthanded when parents call in sick because their children are sick.I see most of these laws basically continuing these forms of discrimination.

June 01 2011 at 3:41 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to olympiapict's comment

It is interseting to observe that many of those exhibiting their bigotry toward unmarried fellow citizens in this string can also be seen elsewhere displaying bigotry toward other groups of fellow citizens such as "the rich". Is it possible to be born a bigot, or are they all self-made bigots?

June 01 2011 at 4:34 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
Mickey markoff

Another attack on the American family? What a shocker, huh? They've been penalizing marriage since the Nixon administration. No surprise here.

June 01 2011 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, now I understand why this country love-hate illegal people... since these people are worried to be send back to their country, they will accept whatever the employer pay them, and since they don't have papers, no need for insurance... who would tell that in the actual moment, USA economy is basically on illegal, because many US-citizen would not work collecting fruits/veggies on farms, or working in cleaning bussiness with the same salary that an illegal has to take or pack your bags and back to your country (which they left because they didn't fin a job there)

June 01 2011 at 2:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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