EEOC Issues New Enforcement Guidance on "Family Responsibilities Discrimination" and Holds Public Meeting on Employer Best Practices for Work/Family Balance


Breaking Developments In Labor and Employment Law

On May 23, 2007, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") issued a new Enforcement Guidance on "Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers With

Caregiving Responsibilities." This type of unlawful treatment, also referred to as "Family Responsibilities Discrimination" or "FRD," has become fertile ground for lawsuits against employers, with FRD claims increasing 400 percent in the last decade. The Enforcement Guidance offers insight into the EEOC's view of how agency-enforced laws apply to workers with caregiving responsibilities.

In a Questions and Answers document, issued at the same time as the Enforcement Guidance, the EEOC said the Enforcement Guidance was a proactive measure intended to address emerging discrimination issues in the 21st century workplace, observing: "Changing workplace demographics, including women's increased participation in the labor force, have created the potential for greater discrimination against working parents and others with caregiving responsibilities."

At the same time it announced the issuance of its new Enforcement Guidance, the EEOC also held a public meeting focusing on employer best practices to achieve work/family balance. At the public meeting, the Commission heard prepared presentations from a wide range of expert

panelists who discussed best practices by employers to balance family-friendly workplaces with legitimate business needs. According to one speaker, the benefits to employers include boosting productivity, reducing staff turnover, increasing employee commitment to the organization, and

reducing absenteeism due to child care and other issues.

The EEOC states that the Enforcement Guidance is not intended to create a new protected category. Indeed, no federal statute exists that prohibits discrimination based solely on parental or other caregiver status.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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