Increasingly, men face family responsibilities discrimination (FRD) in the workplace when they seek to actively care for their children or other family members. This experience is only like to become more common: Studies of younger generations of men (Gen X & Y) reveal that they are less interested in very long hours and increased responsibility at work and more interested in spending time with their families than the generations of men who came before them.
What Does FRD Against Men Look Like?
FRD against men can take a variety of forms, including:
- Getting inaccurate information about the availability of leave and benefits to which they are entitled
- Being discouraged (subtly or overtly) from taking paternity or family and medical leave to which they are entitled
- Receiving unfavorable job assignments or transfers as “punishment” for having taken paternity or family and medical leave
- Receiving unwarranted negative performance evaluations that reference distractions or absences
- Being criticized for being a caregiver, or being the recipient of snide remarks about masculinity or sex roles
- Being excluded from social or business networks
- Being placed on rotating shifts or other shifts that the employer knows are incompatible with caregiving obligations
- Being disciplined for not meeting quotas or performance standards that could not be met because they took leave, and
- Being terminated based on their family responsibilities.
FRD Against Men Is Illegal
Men who experience FRD may bring claims for sex discrimination — for example, if a man is penalized for not conforming to the gender stereotype that, when it comes to his children, “his wife should do it.” However, most FRD claims brought by men are brought under the Family and Medical Leave Act (or a state law equivalent). The FMLA covers only certain employers (those with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius) and certain employees (those who have worked for their employer for at least a year and who worked at least 1250 hours in the preceding year and who haven’t already exhausted their FMLA leave for the year). The FMLA prohibits interference with the right to take leave (such as by discouraging employees from taking leave, giving them inaccurate information about leave, and requiring them to return early from leave) and discrimination and retaliation for taking leave (such as termination or demotion, discipline for not meeting performance standards because of being out on leave, or being punished with poor assignments or excessive overtime for having taken a leave).
Men may also bring FRD claims under other laws that relate to their situations—for example, if they are discriminated against for caring for their child with special medical needs or a disability.