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A single red stick figure, representing a caregiver being discriminated against at work, is separated by a hand from a big group of blue stick figures.

Discrimination Against Caregivers at Work

Since the pandemic hit, caregivers have complained of increased discrimination against them at work. Complaints include unfair, negative evaluations, punitive workloads, and schedule changes that forced them out of employment.

What is Family Responsibilities Discrimination?

Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD) is when an employer discriminates against an employee based on their caregiving status. Some examples of FRD include unfair firing, harassment, or schedule changes that purposefully interfere with your caregiving responsibilities.

Employers often don’t realize that their behaviors are discriminatory. And they may be motivated by conscious or subconscious caregiver bias. For example, assuming that someone caring for a family member will not reliably prioritize their caregiving responsibilities over their work.

What does FRD look like?

Caregiver bias can influence day-to-day workplace decisions, including the allocation of responsibilities, but also hiring, firing, and promotions. Caregiver bias can also intersect with other forms of discrimination an employee may face based on factors including their gender, age, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation. Generally, FRD occurs when an employer is taking into consideration an employee’s caregiver status when making employment decisions.

Here’s an example

Following a breast cancer diagnosis, Tracy's mother needs a ride to chemotherapy appointments every Tuesday afternoon. In order to care for her mother, Tracy informs her supervisor, who sets her schedule, that she cannot work her typical Tuesday shift for the next six weeks.

Yet, when she sees the next week’s schedule, her supervisor has scheduled her for a Tuesday shift. In the break room, she overhears her supervisor complaining about re-arranging the schedule for Tracy’s sake. When Tracy follows up about the schedule, her supervisor tells her if she can’t show up for her Tuesday shifts, she will lose her job.

What can you do about FRD?

It depends on who you are caring for, where you live, and the size of your employer.

For example, under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, if the person you are caring for is entitled to protection, you may be protected against discrimination at work, as a caregiver. There are also state fair employment laws that provide similar protections.

Are there other laws that protect caregivers against discrimination at work?

State, county, or city laws may protect caregivers from discrimination at work.

For example, Delaware passed a law protecting caregivers helping their spouses, parents, or children with serious health conditions from employment discrimination.

In other states, like Minnesota and Alaska, laws protect parents from facing discrimination for caring for children.

A recent report, by AARP, found that 191 cities, towns, villages, or counties have passed laws specifically protecting caregivers. For more detailed information, see Caring Locally for Caregivers: How State and Local Laws Protect Family Caregivers from Discrimination at Work.

About Triage Cancer

Triage Cancer is a national, nonprofit providing free education to people diagnosed with cancer, advocates, caregivers, and health care professionals on cancer-related legal and practical issues. Through eventsmaterials, and resources, Triage Cancer is dedicated to helping people move beyond diagnosis. For more information on the rights of caregivers, visit our Caregiving page or visit the Caregiving module on CancerFinances.org.

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Kaylee Place
kp@triagecancer.org