EEOC Issues “Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities”

eeoc_3Employers, the EEOC issued a new technical assistance document yesterday, titled Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities. This document supplements the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Enforcement Guidance: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities, issued in May 2007.

The Guidance explains the circumstances under which discrimination against workers with  caregiving responsibilities might constitute discrimination based on characteristics protected by federal employment discrimination laws, and suggests best practices that employers may adopt to reduce the chance of EEO violations against caregivers. Best practices are proactive measures that go beyond federal non-discrimination requirements.

The issuance of the Best Practices demonstrates how the new administration is continuing to pay attention to this issue, despite the fact the current economic environment has pushed “family-friendly” policies  to the back burner for many employers. In light of this environment, the EEOC wisely emphasizes in the Best Practices that employers adopting flexible workplace policies may not only experience decreased complaints of unlawful discrimination, but may also benefit their workers, their customer base, and their bottom line. As the Best Practices states:

Numerous studies have found that flexible workplace policies enhance employee productivity, reduce absenteeism, reduce costs, and appear to positively affect profits. They also aid recruitment and retention efforts, allowing employers to retain a talented, knowledgeable workforce and save the money and time that would otherwise have been spent recruiting, interviewing, selecting and training new employees. The benefits of these programs remain constant regardless of the economic climate, and some employers have implemented workplace flexibility programs as an alternative to workforce reductions. Such programs not only enable employers to “go lean without being mean,” but they also can position organizations to rebound quickly as soon as business improves.

The Best Practices provides specific recommendations for employers, including:

  1. train managers about employers’ legal obligations relating to employees with family responsibilities;
  2. implement an EEO policy that prohibits discrimination against caregivers;
  3. respond to complaints of caregiver discrimination promptly and effectively;
  4. review employment policies and practices;
  5. monitor compensation practices and performance appraisal systems;
  6. where overtime is required, make it family friendly; and
  7. promote an inclusive workplace culture.

Despite the many other pressing issues on President Obama’s agenda, it is clear the new administration is not going let this one fall by the wayside.  Just last month, it was reported that President Obama created a White House Council on Women and Girls. Stay tuned – I don’t think this is the last we are going to see from this administration on these matters.

Previous posts about Family Responsibilities Discrimination: The Maternal Profiling Debate Continues, Looking a Flexible-Schedule Gift Horse in the Mouth, Laid Off & Pregnant.