‘Motherhood Penalty’ May Fuel Workplace Lawsuits in Pandemic

April 29, 2020, Bloomberg Law, Daily Labor Report®, by Erin Mulvaney

Reproduced with permission. Published Apr. 29, 2020. Copyright 2020 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) <http://www.bloombergindustry.com>

“Going into the pandemic, moms, particularly those of color, were experiencing wage and hiring discrimination,” Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO and executive director of Moms Rising, a group that advocates for women and families. “Being a mom is a high predictor of discrimination. What we are seeing in this pandemic is the cracks in our faulty system.”

Caregiver litigation stemming from the pandemic likely will include sex or pregnancy bias suits filed by women. But men who take on caregiving roles also can sue. Last week, for example, a male worker sued his employer under the new coronavirus response law after he allegedly was denied leave to care for his mother during the pandemic.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which went into effect April 1, generally requires companies to pay up to 10 weeks of partially paid family and medical leave to workers who need to care for a child in the event of school or daycare closures because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Labor and employment attorneys previously told Bloomberg Law that the law would likely be a source of major litigation due to uncertainty surrounding employer requirements and confusion over which workers are covered.

Being a parent isn’t a protected class under federal law and, outside of the temporary legislation, employers aren’t required to accommodate a parent for time off to care for a child, said Laura Jacobsen, a labor and employment partner with McDonald Carano in Nevada, who advises employers.  However, Jacobsen said she’s flagged caregiver discrimination to clients because of the new law. “School closures and at-home parenting could trigger unconscious bias,” she said.

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