Familial Status Discrimination | Has it happened to you?

February 5, 2016

sickkid_hands_subpageFamilial status discrimination is employment discrimination against workers based on their off-duty family caregiving responsibilities. Pregnant women, mothers and fathers of young children, and employees with aging parents or sick spouses or partners may encounter family responsibilities discrimination. They may be rejected for hire, passed over for promotion, demoted, harassed, or terminated — despite good performance — simply because their employers make personnel decisions based on outdated stereotypical notions of how they will or should act given their family responsibilities.

Some examples of familial status discrimination include:

  • Passing over highly qualified mothers for hire or promotion in favor of less qualified fathers or women without children;
  • Denying flexibility to employees who request it for child care reasons, while allowing flexibility to employees for non-family reasons (e.g., to participate on a sports team);
  • Firing or demoting employees whose spouses or elderly parents become disabled for fear of increased absenteeism or higher health insurance premiums; or
  • Harassing or penalizing workers who take time off to care for their aging parents or sick spouses or partners.

What protection do Oregonians have now?

On the local level, seven jurisdictions in Oregon have enacted familial status protections that go beyond state and federal law and expressly prohibit employment practices that target people with family responsibilities. They all have specific employment protections against familial status discrimination. [1]

  • Beaverton
  • Corvallis
  • Eugene
  • Hillsboro
  • Portland
  • Salem
  • Benton County

What would this bill (HR 4088) do?

While existing laws and local ordinances (in the jurisdictions listed above) cover the vast majority of workers in Oregon (which is great!), they do not explicitly cover elder care and leave several gaps around the state where workers have no protection at all.

The result is a patchwork approach that leaves employers in many situations having to guess how the courts will interpret existing laws when caregiver discrimination is at issue. Often, employers don’t know that they can’t discriminate against mothers and end up facing expensive lawsuits. A definitive law would remove the uncertainty for Oregon employers.

HB 4088 would create a clear statewide standard to protect against caregiver discrimination. This protection would operate and be enforced in the same manner as existing employment protections in Oregon civil rights law (ORS Chapter 659A).

In addition — and this is exciting and important for many Oregonians — HB 4088 would define “familial status” to encompass all types of caregiving relationships, including children, parents, grandparents, non-traditional family members and another person who is dependent on the employee for care. No employee should face employment discrimination based on their off-duty caregiving responsibilities.

HB 4088 would protect employees across the state, regardless of where they live, from all types of familial status discrimination.

Share your experience with us!

Think you might have experienced this kind of familial status discrimination on the job? We want to hear from you, even if you’re not certain that your experience qualifies. It can be hard to know — so get in touch one way or the other!

Email sharon@familyforward.org or leave us a message at 503.928.6789.

[1] Beaverton City Code §§ 5.16.010-.060; Benton County Code §§ 28.005-.115; Corvallis City Code §§ 1.23.010-.120; Eugene City Code § 4.613; Hillsboro City Code §§ 9.34.010-.040; Portland City Code § 23.01.050; Salem City Code Ch. 97