Monday, July 30, 2007

Family Responsibility Discrimination gains more coverage

Family responsibility discrimination continues to gain traction. It was front and center in a featured piece in yesterday's New York Times Magazine available here, (free online registration required). Aside from providing a nice summary of the legal landscape in this evolving amalgam of discrimination, the article makes five interesting point:

  • The U.S. lags behind the rest of the developed world, most of which has much more flexible family leave laws.
  • More than 50% of family responsibility discrimination claims are successful, which is significantly higher than the less than 20% success rate for other types of discrimination.
  • These lawsuits result in six and seven figure verdicts.
  • Even conservative courts are embracing these claims, under the umbrella of "family values."

These points are intertwined, and warrant serious attention from companies. Almost all judges and jurors can relate to caregiving. Even former Chief Justice Rehquist, not known for his liberal viewpoints, in Nevada Dep't of Human Resources v. Hibbs, wrote, "The fault line between work and family [is] precisely where sex-based overgeneralizations has been and remains strongest." The New York Times article makes the point that until either Congress amends the FMLA to extend family leave, other laws are passed, the aggrieved will continue to push reform via discrimination lawsuits, a potentially costly prospect for companies.