UBP blog

07/15/2009

The Family Caregivers Act: How to walk the “slippery slope” when considering employment candidates you know have caregiver responsibilities

Filed under: HR compliance — ubpblogger @ 9:37 am
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According to the Family Caregiving Alliance, at least 7 million Americans are caring for a parent at any given time. Between one-third to one-half of all caregivers are also employed outside the home and 12 percent eventually quit their jobs to care for a loved one full-time. Negative effects of working caregivers include taking time off from work to provide care to a loved one, decreased productivity and absenteeism due to stress-related illnesses to which they are more susceptible.

However, when hiring an employee you know has caregiver responsibilities, HR Managers should be careful not to assume that such responsibilities will get in the way of their ability to fulfill workplace responsibilities. If you clearly articulate the job duties and ask the candidate if he or she is able to perform them, and the candidate says “yes”, then it is not your responsibility to find out how. Most candidates will not take a job that they know they may be unable to perform. In other words, they won’t set themselves up to fail and get fired.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has had an increase in the number of lawsuits and complaints against family caregivers, especially when such caregivers are female. In light of this, HR Managers should avoid:

  • assuming that female workers’ caretaking responsibilities will interfere with their ability to succeed in a fast-paced environment
  • assuming that female workers who work part-time or take advantage of flexible work arrangements are less committed to their jobs than full-time employees
  • assuming that male workers do not, or should not, have significant caregiving responsibilities
  • assuming that female workers prefer, or should prefer, to spend time with their families rather than time at work
  • assuming that female workers who are caregivers are less capable than other workers
  • treating female workers without caregiving responsibilities more favorably than female caregivers
  • steering women with caregiving responsibilities to less prestigious or lower-paid positions
  • treating male workers with caregiving responsibilities more, or less, favorably than female workers with caregiving responsibilities
  • denying male workers’ requests for leave related to caregiving responsibilities while routinely approving female workers’ requests

The above mentioned instances have show up frequently in lawsuits and have been offered by the EEOC as best practices when considering individuals with caregiver responsibilities for employment.

Have any of these (or similar) scenarios been acted out in your company? If so, how did your HR team handle them?

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