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EEOC issues employer best practices on work/family balance

04/28/2009

The EEOC has spelled out a series of best practices employers should follow to avoid discriminating against workers who care for ill family members.

Emphasizing flexible work arrangements and leave policies, the guidance in Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities is especially important during these tough economic times, said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru.

The best practices document (available for free download here) provides recommendations for workplace policies aimed at removing barriers to equal employment opportunity for workers with caregiving responsibilities. Examples include:

  • personal or sick leave policies that allow employees to use leave to care for ill family members
  • flexible work arrangements
  • part-time opportunities with prorated compensation and benefits
  • equal-opportunity policies that address unlawful discrimination against caregivers.

The EEOC recommends these caregiver-friendly best practices:

  • Developing and enforcing a strong equal employment opportunity policy that clearly addresses the types of conduct that might constitute unlawful discrimination against caregivers based on characteristics protected by federal anti-discrimination laws.
  • Training managers about the laws affecting treatment of workers with caregiving responsibilities. Those include the FMLA. ADA, Equal Pay Act, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
  • Ensuring that managers at all levels comply with the organization’s work-life policies. If bosses are responsible for assignments, leave approval, schedules, promotions and other employment terms, conditions and benefits, they should be familiar with the organization’s work-life policies and supportive of employees who take advantage of available programs.
  • Responding effectively to complaints of caregiver discrimination. Investigate complaints promptly and thoroughly. Take corrective action and implement corrective and preventive measures as necessary to resolve the situation and prevent problems from arising in the future.
  • Protecting against retaliation. Provide clear and credible assurances that if employees make complaints or provide information related to complaints about unfair treatment of caregivers, the employer will protect them from retaliation. Ensure that these anti-retaliation measures are enforced.

The best practices document supplements Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities, a guidance document the EEOC issued in 2007 that examines how federal anti-discrimination laws apply to workers with caregiving responsibilities.

Note: Read HR Specialist’s take on the EEOC’s 2007 guidance here.

Ishimaru said the best practices document builds on the 2007 guidance. “Today we take another step forward, articulating not just the bare minimum required to avoid unlawful discrimination, but also thinking broadly about the ways in which family-friendly workplace policies can improve workers’ ability to balance caregiving responsibilities with work,” he said.

Commenting on the importance of caregiver-friendly workplace policies during an economic recession, Heather Boushey, of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, observed: “The poor economy and lack of job creation means that families will need to ensure that they do what they can to keep parents working. The impact of family responsibility discrimination on family well-being is potentially more devastating than ever before.”

Boushey noted that men have lost four out of five jobs during this recession, leaving working mothers as many families’ sole breadwinners. “Families will increasingly rely on women’s earnings, which are typically lower than men’s and are less likely to come with health insurance,” she said.