How to Deal With (and prevent) Discrimination Against Primary Caregivers

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It seems unbelievable to me that Americans are still faced with employment discrimination when we there are so many other options available. While once rampant discrimination was perpetrated based on race, sex or religious affiliation, today one of the worst forms of discrimination is discrimination against primary caregivers (a.k.a. parents and children of sick/aging parents). Many people do not realize that there are several different kinds of primary caregiver discrimination. Learning the different types of discrimination that are practiced against primary caregivers is the best way to learn how to prevent it.
In some cases, there are laws that help prevent primary caregiver discrimination. These laws often include not only those who care of their children, but also those who care for a sick or aging parent as well a sick spouse. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Under this act, specifically Title VII, primary caregiver discrimination is declared illegal. The law gives primary caregivers protection without declaring them a ‘protected class.’
It is also true that women are the primary targets of this type of discrimination. This is because gender stereotyping is still rearing its ugly head, making many people assume that only women can be primary caregivers. This stereotyping can lead to an additional kind of discrimination against women. Some companies will refuse to hire young married women – specifically because there is a high chance that those same young women will soon have children and thus become a primary caregiver.

Preventing discrimination against primary caregivers is a tricky matter. The truth is no company would refuse to hire a primary caregiver and give that as the cause. Instead they will site lack of experience or even too much experience. Companies that have successfully implemented a program of primary caregiver discrimination prevention have typically taken one step: they disallow interviewers or hiring managers from asking questions designed to determine if a particular candidate is or will become a primary caregiver.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC has developed a list of guidelines specifically aimed at preventing discrimination against primary caregivers. These are merely guidelines and not legally binding, but it’s still important to know and perhaps implementing a similar program might ensure that a company is not actively discriminating. The following is what the list includes:

  1. Develop a list of qualifications for each open position
  2. Focus only on a candidates abilities, strengths and weaknesses
  3. Actively recruit primary caregivers
  4. Engage in careful review programs to monitor performance and compensation evaluations
  5. Whenever possible offer flex time as an option for employees

Remember: an employer IS NOT ALLOWED TO discriminate against primary caregivers. Because of the prevalence of lawsuits, employers are recommended to follow the guidelines set forth by the EEOC and to actively monitor their hiring practices as well as the terms and conditions of employment. Primary caregiver discrimination is still a problem today, but it doesn’t have to be.