Family rights discrimination (FRD) — discrimination against an employee who serves as a caregiver to a family member — continues to be a hot button issue in the workplace. According to the Center for WorkLife Law (CWL), there were a total of just 8 FRD cases filed in the 1970s. The number significantly increased over the next several years, with a total of 97 FRD cases filed from 1986 to 1995. Unfortunately, FRD has shown little sign of abatement. From 1986 to 2005, FRD filings totaled 481; an increase of approximately 400%.
While smaller businesses present the highest incidence of FRD, large companies — even those recognized by Fortune as “Best Companies to Work For” — have been sued for such discrimination. According to the CWL, the success rate of FRD cases is relatively high, coming in at greater than 50% versus 20% for other types of discrimination cases. Notably, the average award for FRD cases is slightly over $100,000 with a high of $25 million.
Not surprisingly, women are plaintiffs in the overwhelming majority of FRD cases. It is not uncommon for such cases to arise in the context of pregnancy. A recent article featured in Forbes entitled How To Balance Work and Pregnancy, highlights two scenarios of which employees should be mindful:
If you do all this and notice your boss is restricting the types of projects you work on or has taken you off the partnership track, address it with him. In the best scenario, the boss is trying to make things easy on you (albeit unfairly). Document all of these changes and then say something to him. In most cases, it’s a misunderstanding that will be rectified by your bringing it to his attention.
If it’s a more serious situation, such as the boss making offhand comments about your pregnancy affecting your work, continue to document those instances. Also keep note of the change in assignments you’re getting. First, go to your boss and ask if there’s a problem with the quality of your work. If it doesn’t improve, bring all the examples to human resources. Discriminating against someone because they’re pregnant is illegal, and most companies will handle the situation immediately.
When in doubt, consult with an attorney who concentrates in employment law. You owe it to yourself, your family, and your career.