Last week, I had the opportunity to give a presentation on Family Responsibilities Discrimination. Also on the panel was Dina Bakst, Co-President of A Better Balance. I asked Dina to sit down in an interview afterwards to follow on some of the issues we discussed.
Prior to co-founding a A Better Balance, she was a consulting project attorney to NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (now Legal Momentum) and Child Care, Inc., where she advocated for improving early care and education services in New York City.
She also worked with NOW Legal Defense as a visiting staff attorney, where she engaged in litigation and conducted public policy advocacy in the areas of reproductive rights, economic justice, and child care. She has also worked as a litigation/ employment associate with Kaye, Scholer, LLP. Dina is the mother of three daughters and a graduate of The University of Michigan Law School and the University of Michigan.
I thank Dina for her time and present to you another installment of "Five Questions with…"
1) First off, what is "A Better Balance"?
A Better Balance is a legal advocacy organization dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace and helping workers care for their families without risking their economic security. We employ a range of organizing and legal strategies to promote flexible workplace policies, end discrimination against caregivers and value the work of caring for families.
2) Why should employers care about these issues?
Supportive work-family policies are not just good for workers and their families, they’re good for the bottom line. Numerous studies have found that flexible workplace policies help businesses increase productivity, reduce turnover and aid in recruitment and retention efforts.
In addition, addressing discrimination against workers with caregiving responsibilities, or “Family Responsibilities Discrimination” (FRD), is more critical than ever.
Over the past 10 years, FRD claims have increased by 400% and have shown a greater than 50% success rate by plaintiffs. It’s imperative employers recognize the potential for liability and take pro-active steps to eliminate this rising form of discrimination.
Ultimately, these steps will help create a more loyal and productive workforce and ensure that all workers enjoy equal opportunity to succeed.
3) What are some best practices approaches that you can recommend to employers?
According to the EEOC, best practices include developing, disseminating and enforcing a strong EEO policy, training supervisors to detect and prevent FRD, and reviewing criteria for hiring, attendance and promotion to see if they disadvantage employees with family caregiving responsibilities.
In addition, encouraging employees to request flexible work arrangements and not penalizing them for making such requests, providing reasonable personal or sick leave to allow employees to engage in caregiving, and if overtime is required, making it as family-friendly as possible, may all reduce the potential for liability.
For more information on employer best practices, you can download the EEOC document here.
4) Overall, has your organization seen any trends in the workplace on these issues, particularly during the recession?
Yes, the recession has prompted some employers to implement flexible work arrangements as a method to save money and avoid layoffs. There is also a growing recognition that workplace flexibility is not just a perk for women, but an issue that affects everyone.
At the same time, many workers are still reluctant to take advantage of their company’s flexible work policies, worried they’ll be penalized for doing so. In addition, through our Families at Work legal clinic, we are seeing an increasing number of low-income workers penalized for their caregiving responsibilities.
Taking a day off to care for a sick child or ill parent frequently spells job loss.
5) If employers are interested in knowing more, what resources can you suggest?
For general background and educational materials on work-life laws and policies, visit our website at: www.abetterbalance.org. For more information on how to prevent FRD and employer model policies, you can visit www.worklifelaw.org. For tips on implementing flexible work arrangements, www.cvworkingfamilies.org has some good information.