Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD), also called caregiver discrimination, is employment discrimination against workers based on their family caregiving responsibilities.
Pregnant workers, mothers and fathers of young children, breastfeeding people, 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 — because their employers make personnel decisions based on stereotypical notions of how the employee will or should act given their family responsibilities.
WorkLife Law’s FRD Fact Sheet and FRD Frequently Asked Questions provide more information about the types of workplace situations that commonly lead to family responsibilities discrimination. For the latest information on FRD litigation, see our 2016 litigation update report Caregivers in the Workplace. For the latest information on state and local FRD laws protecting parents from work discrimination, see our 2020 report Protecting Parents During COVID-19: State and Local Laws Prohibit Discrimination at Work. You can also access a list of Existing State & Local FRD Laws, our Model Language for State & Local FRD Laws, and our Model Policy for Employee Handbooks.
What Does Family Responsibilities Discrimination Look Like?
- firing or demoting employees when they become pregnant;
- passing over more qualified parents for hire or promotion in favor of less qualified workers without children;
- firing employees without valid business reasons when they return from maternity or paternity leave;
- denying flexibility to employees who want it for child care reasons, while allowing flexibility to employees for non-family reasons (e.g., to participate on a sports team);
- firing employees whose spouses or elderly parents become disabled for fear of increased absenteeism or higher health insurance premiums; and
- fabricating work infractions or performance deficiencies to justify firing employees with family responsibilities.
- denying break time and private space to breastfeeding employees to pump milk during the workday
Who experiences FRD?
While most family responsibilities discrimination plaintiffs are women, men are increasingly facing family responsibilities discrimination in the workplace as they care for their families.
Family responsibilities discrimination affects employees of every income level and in every industry. Cases have included those in low-wage jobs (grocery clerks, nurses’ aides), pink-collar jobs (administrative assistants, teachers), blue-collar jobs (police, firefighters), and professional/managerial jobs (lawyers, doctors, executives).Learn More About Men and FRD Learn More About Eldercare and FRD Learn More About Pregnancy and FRD