Thursday, October 25, 2007

EEOC: More employees with caregiving issues complain of family responsibility discrimination

The Money Section, page 3B in print, of USA Today, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007 has an important story by Stephanie Armour, “More employers face caregiver-related lawsuits: Laywer: Issue ‘on empoyers’ radar screens’. The article does not yet appear on line so the hardcopy may need to be purchased today.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports an upsurge in complaints and litigation. The case experience seems to be a mixture of more common reported care-related issues, such as pregnancy and paternity, and increasing concerns about eldercare. The generic term for this problem is "family responsibility discrimination."

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 mandates that employers over a certain size give employees with enough time in service up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for such situations. Most other countries mandate paid leave, and some larger employers (such as Bloomberg, reported in the story) give long-standing associates paid leave in some circumstances. Short-term disability insurance programs generally cover most of income for associates but not for caregiving.

Complaints include passover for promotion, and cultural indifference. Many people with caregiving responsibilities don’t “tell” at work.

Caregiving may be more stressful for people who did not have their own children and who are not used to “going to bat” for other family members because they did not set up their own social or marital relationships that give them experience in doing so.

Workplace culture is a factor. Salaried, exempt professional or management employment in practice requires uncompensated overtime (particularly when being on-call or on "nightcall"). If one person is absent or does less because of family responsibility, other associates may have to do their work on their own time and expense without compensation. This often happens in practice and can cause resentment, especially among people with different family structures and widely varying levels of responsibility. On the other hand, intelligent use of telecommuting and working from home with computer terminals can alleviate this problem, although that raises security issues, as indicated in widespread media reports about corporate personal data losses.

Sometimes conservatives will argue that tightening up on employers to help employees with burdens will drive more jobs overseas.

It’s also important to note that many jobs in information technology are short term contracts with W-2 compensation only, and no benefits, although corp-to-corp is becoming more common and some personnel service companies are recognizing the importance of benefits in attracting the most qualified professionals. Even some “at home” call center companies (like Alpine) are starting to offer benefits to attract better people, even though health insurance and caregiving represent big issues.

In fact, Business 24/7, offered in complimentary copies in Bank of America lobbies now, has, in the Fall 2007 issue, on p 29, an article by Chris Freeburn: “Health Insurance: Examining Options, controlling the costs.”

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