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A new category of discrimination based on "caregiver" status?

Most of our regular Colorado readers probably know by now that there are many employers throughout the country, and in Colorado, who do not always do what is right when it comes to their employees. Employment discrimination can take many forms, often based on things like an employee's religion, race, nationality or disability. And some experts have even taken the stand that new areas of discrimination are rising in America, including discrimination based on an employee's weight. Now, it appears there may be yet another category of discrimination on the rise among America's workforce - "caregiver" discrimination.

"Caregiver" discrimination could be broadly defined as discrimination against an employee who asks for time off from work to care for a sick or dying loved one. In a recent article in Forbes, this idea was addressed extensively. Perhaps the most telling aspect of this "new" type of discrimination is that it is aimed at those employees who may be asking for time off specifically to care for older parents or relatives. Employers seemingly are more sympathetic if the ill relative is the employee's child.

Unfortunately for many employees in this type of situation, federal law such as the Family Medical Leave Act may not apply. The FMLA has certain restrictions on who can be covered by the protections of the law - the employer must have at least 50 employees and the employee requesting FMLA leave must have worked for the employer for at least one year.

In the absence of adequate legal protections, an employee who may be facing "caregiver" discrimination may want to explore other legal options. Discrimination in the workplace should never be defended, whether it is based on something as violating as sexual harassment or something as unsympathetic as firing an employee who needs to take care of an ailing parent or other older relative.

Source: Forbes, "Sex Discrimination, Age Discrimination, Family Responsibilities Discrimination?," Ashlea Ebeling, Sept. 10, 2012

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