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Family caretaker workplace discrimination lawsuits on the rise

It may seem like more and more employment discrimination lawsuits are making the news these days. For example, some Minnesota residents may remember a lawsuit from late 2014 in which a jury in another state awarded punitive damages to the tune of over $185 million to a female employee who was mistreated while on the job because she was female, received a demotion after becoming pregnant and was ultimately let go from her job.

Situations like this are only growing. According to a recent study, the amount of lawsuits between 2006 and 2015 that were filed by workers alleging they were discriminated against due to being pregnant or for caring for relatives tripled. The study examined 4,400 cases and found that of the cases in which the worker was discriminated against due to "family-responsibilities," 67 percent of these workers saw success at trial.

Why the increase? Well, in addition to pregnancy discrimination and maternity leave discrimination, more men are choosing to take paternity leave, and parents may also take leave to adopt a child. In addition, nursing mothers need accommodations in the workplace to pump breastmilk. Moreover, many people are also caring for ailing adults in their families. In fact, according to one report, of the 44 million unpaid family caretakers in the nation, 60 percent have a job. Of these, 40 percent are male and almost 25 percent are "millennials." All of these situations have the capacity to create workplace tension.

When it comes to family caretakers, there is no federal law that expressly prohibits workplace discrimination against them. However, if an employer makes choices in the workplace based on the fact that the worker is a caretaker, the employer may be violating other federal laws. Many states have also enacted laws against discrimination based on family responsibilities.

As this shows, workplace discrimination has many faces. However, workers should not lose hope. With the right help, they may be able to take action if they have been the victim of workplace discrimination.

Source: CBS Money Watch, "Homefront pressures have workplace lawsuits soaring," Anna Robaton, May 23, 2016

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