Thursday, January 3, 2008

"Maternal Profiling" listed as buzzword of 2007

With the calender barely having turned to 2008, I'm still catching up reviewing year end lists for 2007. One list, the New York Time's Buzzwords of 2007, should be of particular interest to employment lawyers, employers, and HR personnel. It lists "maternal profiling" as one of the phrases that took its place in the national conversation for 2007. Maternal profiling is defined as:

Employment discrimination against a woman who has, or will have, children. The term has been popularized by members of MomsRising, an advocacy group promoting the rights of mothers in the workplace.

A trip over to reveals some frightening statistics about the workplace impact of maternal profiling. It cites one study which found that mothers are 79% less likely to be hired than non-mothers with equal resumes and job experiences. It cites another study that women without children make 90% as compared to a comparable man, as compared to 73% for women with children and 60% for single moms. It cites one final study that mothers were offered $11,000 less in starting pay than non-mothers with the same resumes and job experience, while fathers were offered $6,000 more.

I've spent a lot of time this year writing about family responsibility discrimination in light of the EEOC's recent enforcement guidance on the subject, and the $2.1 million verdict against Kohl's Department Stores for repeatedly passing over a qualified mom for promotion. Maternal profiling may have been one of the buzzwords of 2007, but it certainly appears that family responsibility discrimination is going to be a key employment issue in 2008 and beyond. Depending on how the political winds blow after the November elections, FMLA expansion, paid sick and parental leave, and incentives for family-friendly work programs will all be in play in 2009.

I am not suggesting that everyone rewrite their leave policies, but those who can afford to be family-friendly will have an advantage in recruiting and retention of employees for whom it is an important benefit (i.e., most people between the ages of 25 and 50). At a minimum you should be building the concept of maternal profiling into your harassment and EEO/diversity training. Discrimination in largely subconscious, and education is the first step towards prevention.

Hat tip to Carrie Kurzon at the New York Employment Lawyer Blog.