EEOC Issues Discrimination Avoidance Best Practices Document

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a document on best practices to avoid discrimination against workers with caregiving responsibilities, and held a public meeting to discuss the importance of policies that protect caregivers in an economic downturn on April 22.

The technical assistance document, titled "Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities," is available here. The best practices document supplements "Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities," a guidance document issued by EEOC in 2007 (available here) that examines how federal anti-discrimination laws apply to workers with caregiving responsibilities.

"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," said Stuart J. Ishimaru, EEOC acting chairman.

The document 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 proportional compensation and benefits, and equal-opportunity policies that address unlawful discrimination against caregivers.

In addition to issuing the new document, EEOC heard from expert panelists who discussed the importance of implementing or maintaining caregiver-friendly workplace policies, particularly during an economic recession.

Heather Boushey, senior economist at 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.

In addition to Boushey, panelists included: Cynthia Calvert, deputy director of the Center for WorkLife Law; Karen Minatelli, director of Work and Family Programs for the National Partnership for Women and Families; and Jeff Norris, president of the Equal Employment Advisory Council.

All panelists' prepared testimony are available at www.eeoc.gov/abouteeoc/meetings/4-22-09/index.html.

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