What You Can Do in California if Your Employer Has Punished You for Being a Caregiver for Family Members

With the challenges that have been created by the current pandemic, more and more people are wearing the dual “hats” of employee and caregiver for children or seniors. Whether you are a man or a woman, it is possible to face employment discrimination because you care for those family members, whether they’re your kids, your grandchildren, parents or other elders. While the Fair Employment and Housing Act does not currently list family responsibilities discrimination as a specific cause for suing and collecting damages, that doesn’t mean that you cannot win a case based on the workplace discrimination you suffered due to your family responsibilities. There potentially may be avenues available under the FEHA, so be sure to reach out to an experienced Oakland employment attorney about your situation.

D.R. was someone who allegedly faced this difficulty. She was an account executive for an insurance brokerage firm in San Diego, and was also a mom to two young children. According to a New York Times report, when the governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order, the executive began working from home. At home, she managed her work duties and also tended to her children (for whom she could not find childcare due to the stay-at-home order.)

Allegedly, the executive’s supervisor was not happy with D.R.’s juggling work and kids, and took several discriminatory actions, such as assigning her several tasks with “rush” deadlines (even though those tasks weren’t actually urgent) and frequently scheduling conference calls during the lunch hour, even though the supervisor knew that D.R. would be either nursing her youngest, feeding her oldest or putting the younger child down for a nap. The supervisor allegedly did this even after the executive stated that afternoon calls would be better as the younger child would be napping during that period, according to the Times report. D.R.’s supervisor reprimanded her after her children were heard on a call with a client, calling it “unprofessional,” and later told D.R. to “take care of your kid situation,” in addition to making many other sexist statements that demonstrated a clear bias against mothers, according to the mother’s lawsuit.

As noted above, for cases like D.R.’s, there is no specific claim available under California law for family responsibilities discrimination. State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson proposed such a bill several years ago, but it did not become law. More recently, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker proposed a bill to make family responsibilities discrimination a violation of federal anti-discrimination law, but it also has not become law yet.

So, if you’re harmed at work for caring for your children, does that meant you have no case? No, it doesn’t! Those actions that harmed you may also qualify under some different form of illegal discrimination.

The harm you suffered may fit within various areas of illegal discrimination

In D.R.’s case, for example, she alleged that her supervisor treated her as a mother differently than similarly situated fathers. If she presented proof to back that up, she may have a winning case of sex discrimination.

Alternately, if you are (as D.R. was) a nursing mom, and your employer punishes you in ways connected to your nursing your child, then that may open the door to a valid claim of pregnancy discrimination, as pregnancy discrimination protections in California also extend to nursing mothers. If you’re a single mother and your supervisor made disparaging remarks about your lack of a partner and how that was the source of the problems you faced at work, then that might be an example of marital status discrimination, which is another ground recognize by the FEHA.

If one or more of your children have disabilities, then that may open doors. The FEHA prohibits what’s called “associational discrimination,” which in the past has been ruled by courts to include things like a parent who cares for a child with chronic illness. Negative comments that stereotype women of your race and the number of children they have – (e.g., “all of you Latinas” (or “all you Black women”) are “always having seven or eight kids,”) might be something that, if you heard them at work, could become an important part of a viable race discrimination case.

If your employer has punished you for devoting yourself both to your job and to caring for family members, your employer may have engaged in illegal discrimination that violates California law and entitled you to compensation. Contact The Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch to get the legal representation you need. Attorney Fuerch is a skilled Oakland employment attorney with many years of helping discriminated workers to get the results they deserve. To learn more, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

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