Discrimination, Family Leave Act
Workplace Discrimination, Family Leave, & Sick Day Laws
DISCRIMINATION LAW: While there's no federal law that explicitly covers gender identity or sexual orientation, the Civil Rights Act does prohibit discrimination by sex. And one court ruling in 1989 set a precedent that employees could not be discriminated against based on sex stereotyping, or not acting in accordance with expectations of how society perceived a man or woman should behave.
Hiring managers should be careful to note that there are many areas of behavior and identity, while not exactly covered by name in legislation, that may result in lawsuits.
Debra Raskin, a plaintiff's employment lawyer at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard has advice on navigating discrimination laws in the workplace:
_ Know the specific laws in your city and state. Many states have their own, specific anti-discrimination laws in place that go beyond federal protections on age, gender, disability, race, religion and national origin.
- Keep a good employment lawyer on hand, if possible. New law is always in the making - Raskin cited cases on discrimination based on appearance, such as wearing hijab, the Muslim scarf for women, or whether making employment decisions based on accent constitutes national-origin discrimination.
- Focus on specific job qualifications and try to exclude everything else about the candidate. “The basic principle is, deal with the qualifications for the job. If the job requires you to use Excel on a computer, let's focus on that. It's hard to think of jobs that matter whether you wear a dress or not.”
MATERNITY LEAVE: Expanded family leave policies, while they often take employees out of the labor force for longer periods of time, can be a boon to the new mothers' careers, according to a new study.
“Maternity leaves, if they offer job protection, can help women who have children improve their job continuity and eventually their economic outlook,” said the lead author of the project, Professor Michael Baker of the University of Toronto.
Researchers looked at Canadian leave policies and employment among new mothers in Canada from 1976 to 2002.
As Canadian provinces expanded leave rights from 17 or 18 weeks in the mid-1980s to at least one year in the early part of this decade, the number of new mothers on leave months after having given birth expanded dramatically. For example, a province that instituted a mandatory 18-week leave could expect an increase of 5.5 percentage points in employed mothers who took leave in the month of their child's birth.
And leave extensions expanded the return of mothers to their pre-birth employer, whereas before more of those mothers would have taken part-time work somewhere else or stayed home, Baker said.
“The argument is, if women have more continuity, in the longer run they'll have better wages,” Baker said.
The study, “How does job-protected maternity leave affect mothers' employment?” was published in the October issue of the Journal of Labor Economics.
WE WANT SICK DAYS: Most large companies offer paid sick days to their employees, but 43 percent of the private work force didn't have them in 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are no federal or state laws mandating paid sick days, although Washington, D.C. and San Francisco guarantee them.
A recent survey found that 82 percent of respondents considered paid sick leave for ones self a “very important” employee benefit. It ranked fourth after equal pay for equal work, a safe workplace and affordable health insurance - and ahead of retirement benefits, paid vacations and flex time.
And 77 percent of respondents said paid sick days were a “very important” labor standard for workers.
Half of respondents “agreed very strongly” that paid sick days were a “basic worker's right,” and 75 percent “strongly favored” a law guaranteeing all workers a minimum number of paid sick days - although that number dropped to 66 percent after respondents heard various arguments for and against such a law.
The National Paid Sick Days Study was conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago in a random telephone sampling of 1,493 adults in U.S. households from June 27 to July 31. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.