The law respects employees’ family obligations. You should too.
There is a growing trend of lawsuits filed in U.S. courts by workers alleging discrimination because of their obligations to care for children, parents, or disabled family members. In the last 10 years, such litigation has risen by 400 percent.
The dramatic increase is in part due to the growing number of employed mothers, and media coverage of high-profile lawsuits. Plaintiffs in these lawsuits are more likely to prevail than in other employment discrimination cases, and the average award is over $100,000, with one high-profile case awarding $25 million to the plaintiff.
These cases are often easier to win by virtue of the outrageous comments and behavior made by managers and supervisors. Here are some examples:
- A female salesperson with outstanding performance reviews alleged that she experienced hostility when she returned from maternity leave, including extraordinary scrutiny of her work hours. Her manager refused to allow her to leave to pick up her sick child from daycare, and threw a phone book at her, telling her to find a pediatrician who was open after hours. The plaintiff was awarded $625,000 in damages.
- A female sales representative who had worked for the company for eight years applied for a promotion, indicating that she was willing to relocate. Her male supervisor responded by asking why her husband was not going to take care of her. Finally, he did not consider her for the promotion because she had children, and he did not think she really would want to relocate her family. She won $1.1 million at trial.
- For three years, a female plaintiff worked for a company that leased cars to corporate clients. She had two kids. When she told her supervisor that she was pregnant with a third child, her supervisor said: “Oh, my God, she is pregnant again.” A few months later, the supervisor shook her head at the female plaintiff and said, “You’re not coming back after this baby.” When the plaintiff was five months pregnant, she was fired by a manager who said: “Hopefully this will give you some time to spend at home with your children.” The next day, the manager told coworkers: “We felt this would be a good time for her to spend some time with her family.” The plaintiff won her case and was awarded over $100,000.
- A school psychologist at an elementary school received positive performance reviews for two years, and was assured that she would receive tenure. As the tenure decision approached, however, her supervisors repeatedly expressed concerns that it was “not possible for her to be a good mother and have this job.” The plaintiff’s commitment to the job also was questioned because “she had little ones at home.” One supervisor told her: “Please do not get pregnant until I retire.” The court allowed the case to move forward.
- A male state trooper was denied leave to care for his newborn and was told by his female supervisor that his wife would need to be “in a coma or dead” for a man to qualify for leave as the primary caregiver. According to the female supervisor, “God made women to have babies and, unless he could have a baby, there is no way he could be primary caregiver.” The male plaintiff was awarded $375,000 in damages.