So says Joan C. Williams, founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, in a recent statement highlighting findings from a new UC Hastings study.
And, judging by some of the statistics found in said study, it’s hard to argue that she has a point.
The report, Caregivers in the Workplace: Family Responsibilities Discrimination Litigation Update 2016, analyzed 4,400 family responsibilities discrimination cases that were filed in the United States between the years 2006 and 2015. Report author Cynthia Thomas Calver looked at employees’ claims alleging discrimination based on their status as a pregnant woman, mother, father, or a caregiver for a sick or disabled family member or an aging or ill parent, and found a 269 percent increase in the number of such cases filed in that 10-year span, compared to the prior decade.
While you’re digesting that number, chew on these facts and figures to emerge from the UC Hastings report:
- Claims for FRD have been filed in every U.S. state.
- Cases involving eldercare have increased 650 percent in the last 10 years.
- Pregnancy accommodation cases have gone up by 315 percent.
- Though the number of claims remains small, suits in which an employer is alleged to have denied accommodations or discriminated against an employee because she was breastfeeding or needed to express milk during the workday has risen by 800 percent.
- Male employees have brought 55 percent of spousal care cases, 39 percent of eldercare cases, 38 percent of FMLA cases and 28 percent of childcare cases.
- A clear majority of employees are succeeding with family responsibilities discrimination suits, with workers winning 67 percent of the FRD claims that went to trial from ’06 to ’15.
Naturally, these claims are hitting American employers pretty hard in the wallet. FRD litigation cost U.S. companies $477 million over the past decade (compared to roughly $197 million from 1996 to 2005), according to the WorkLife Law report, which suggests that the actual amount is “likely to be significantly higher, as many settlements are confidential.” These figures “also fail to capture the ripple effects of discrimination, including employee attrition and related replacement costs, damage to the company’s public reputation and reductions in the morale and productivity of all employees.”
The report also lays out some steps for preventing family responsibilities discrimination within the organization, such as providing supervisor training, adopting anti-discrimination policies that include family responsibilities, activating HR-run oversight programs and ensuring that the company’s procedures for responding to employee complaints address FRD.
In the aforementioned statement, Calvert, a senior advisor to the Center for WorkLife Law, stresses the importance of adapting to America’s evolving workforce and families, and the cost of failing to do so.
“Until employers adjust to the realities of families with all adults in the paid workforce and a significant growth in the number of older Americans who need assistance from their adult working children, it’s unlikely we’ll see a decrease in the number of cases filed.”Twitter It!