Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to the Fairfield County Bar Association on the burgeoning field of Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD, for short). It is also known at times as Caregiver Discrimination.
In essence, it is a cross-disciplinary practice that looks as various statutes like Title VII, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, FMLA, ADA and applies those laws in the context of various workplace situations.
Groups like, A Better Balance, have websites devoted to this (and spoke at the meeting yesterday).
Lest you think that this is just made up out of whole cloth, the EEOC released guidance in 2007 on this very topic. Specifically, the EEOC has released:
Connecticut has long had various laws that expand the protections traditionally held under federal law. But Connecticut also has a little-known provision that actual speaks directly to family responsibilities.
Specifically, Conn. Gen. Stat. 46a-60(a)(9) states that it is discrimination for an employer to "request or require information" relating to the individual’s child-bearing age or plans, pregnancy, function of the individual’s reproductive system, use of birth control methods, or the individual’s familial responsibilities", unless there a limited exception applies (such as exposure to toxic substances).
The statute doesn’t seem to go as far as prohibiting employment decisions based on familial responsibilities, but employers should be cautious in their approach to this sensitive issue. As the EEOC has pointed out in its guidance, making decisions based on sex-based stereotypes may be gender discrimination.
For employers, FRD represents a still-developing field that warrants close attention over the next years.