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HR Solutions

EEOC's Take on
Caregiving Responsibilities:
Gender Stereotypes
and Agency Stereotypes
What should HR do,
if anything?

This past May the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
issued a "guidance" on workers with caregiving responsibilities.  Like many other guidances, this one is long on theory and short on practice.  Its focus is on a form of discrimination that is in fact legal (discriminating against employees whose performance suffers because of competing time requirements outside of the employment) but that indirectly could involve gender (and possibly other) forms of illegal inconsistency.

The sense of this guidance is that an employer may be violating Title VII when basing an adverse employment action on caregiving activity, even if there is no disparate treatment.  For example, the guidance goes beyond the obvious pitfalls such as asking women applicants, but not male counterparts, if they are married or have young children.   The guidance raises questions about disparate treatment between women who are caregivers and those who are not. 

But the guidance agrees that an employer who discriminates against male and female caregivers in favor of employees who don't have such responsibilities is not violating the law.

Finally, the Commission suggests a "double bind" in which part-time female employees who care for their newborns are looked down upon for being ineffective at work - while full-time female employees with newborns are looked down upon for being inattentive mothers.

Much of this appears to be a rambling dissertation about the risk of an employer presuming that a female who has to take care of someone outside of work is a problem.  

As an employer you avoid this potential claim through:

-manager training about problem performers
-manager training about the danger of making assumptions about women who work with young children or an elderly person that requires care
-consistent treatment of problem performers