Advocates Urge More Legal Support for Caregivers
Both the American workforce and the American population as a whole are aging. These changes mean that an increasing number of people in the workforce will be juggling job responsibilities with their responsibilities for taking care of elderly relatives, according to Protecting Family Caregivers from Employment Discrimination, an August 2012 report from the AARP Public Policy Institute and the Center for WorkLife Law at Hastings College of the Law.
Older workers are most likely to be responsible for taking care of elderly relatives. The AARP report states that in 1999, workers age 55 and older were only 12% of the workforce. In 2010, they were 19.5%, and they are projected to make up 23.9% of the workforce by 2018. The “average” family caregiver is now a 49-year-old woman who is employed outside the home and also spends nearly 20 hours per week caring for her mother for five years.
The report urges more legal protections against “family responsibility discrimination” – the unfair treatment of workers with caregiving responsibilities.
Currently, few federal or state laws specifically prohibit family responsibility discrimination. While employees may file claims under various federal laws, there are gaps. For example, nearly half of workers are not covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Some 67 local laws prohibit family responsibility discrimination, but 37 of those apply only to childcare, not to eldercare. The report recommends (1) making “family caregiver status” a protected class under state laws and (2) requiring employers to adopt policies to prevent caregiver discrimination and to provide more workplace support for caregivers.
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Tags: FMLA, Preventing Discrimination and Harassment