Protecting Parents from Workplace Discrimination

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Protecting Parents from Workplace Discrimination

Valuing Families

by Nathan Newman

Protecting Parents from Workplace Discrimination

We may say as a country that we value families and mothers, but a rise in job discrimination complaints by moms highlights how far most workplaces are from that ideal.  Yesterday, to help clarify the responsibilities of employers, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidelines on what kinds of discrimination against parents is illegal. 

Under federal law, the guidelines explain, an employer cannot encourage career advancement for men with children, while denying promotions to women with children or otherwise stereotyping working women with children as less able to cope than their male counterparts. 

But here's the sad and somewhat shocking part.  Nothing in federal law stops an employer from discriminating against parents generally:

Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based solely on parental or other caregiver status, so an employer does not generally violate Title VII’s disparate treatment proscription if, for example, it treats working mothers and working fathers in a similar unfavorable (or favorable) manner as compared to childless workers.

While many states prohibit discrimination based on marital status, only Alaska and the District of Columbia explicitly protect parents as a class from discrimination in the workplace.  Pennsylvania is considering a bill to ban discrimination based on "familial status" as well as "marital status."  A key way to stop discrimination against parents, especially moms, is to bar employers from even asking in interviews whether an applicant is married or has kids, an important provision of the proposed Pennsylvania law patterned on other states which bar such questions.   MomsRising is focusing national attention on the campaign with a petition in support of the Pennsylvania bill, a step to bringing greater consciousness of the problem to states around the country.

More Resources

Rewarding Work

by J. Mijin Cha

Union Construction Jobs offer a Way out of Gang Life

With nearly 650,000 people released from state and federal prison every year, programs need to be available to support reentry into society.  Faced with a shortage of members, the building-trades unions of California have begun recruiting for apprenticeship programs in communities of color where many young men have criminal pasts. 

With its new program, the building trades unions in California are redefining the word "gang".  Over the last decade, the construction boom has resulted in a large number of good-paying jobs and those jobs are being filled by a large and growing number of Southern California's former gang members.  Whereas union jobs were once reserved for those with family connections, now former gang members are recruiting other gang members out of a life of crime.  As one apprentice said, "this is our gang now, in a positive way, though."  For individuals with a prison record, the building trades were one of the only places that accepted them.

Prison Training Programs: Such union-based programs can be especially effective in conjunction with prison rehabilitation programs like the Illinois Building Homes: Rebuilding Lives program, where that state's Department of Corrections has created classes to train prisoners in the construction trades, giving them an opportunity to build homes for low-income families in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.   Michigan and Minnesota have similar programs working with Habitat for Humanity.  Minnesota in particular has a well-developed relationship between the State Department of Corrections and the local building trades unions, who provide journeyman foreman crew leaders to supervise and train offenders on these building projects.  Such programs provide prisoners training that will help them in seeking jobs in the private sector upon reentry after their sentences are finished. 

Funding Pre-Apprenticeship Training: States and local governments can fund programs to help provide ex-prisoners with any missing skills needed to qualify for union apprenticeship programs.  For example, Washington D.C. enacted legislation that requires employers receiving contract awards from the District to establish apprenticeship programs for community members.  To ensure that District residents gained the educational foundation and workplace skills needed to qualify for the apprenticeships, the District negotiated special pre-apprenticeship programs with five local unions, a program that benefits a range of ex-prisoners and at-risk youth in those communities.

Integrating prisoner training into union apprenticeship and recruitment strategies is a documented strategy for reducing recidivism and decreasing gang activity by giving ex-offenders the opportunity of decent paying jobs with benefits.  

More Resources

Increasing Democracy

By J. Mijin Cha

Extending Civil Rights to Gay Citizens

This session, the Iowa legislature broke a long standing stalemate and added sexual orientation to its civil rights laws. SF 427 makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, public accomodation, credit, housing and education based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.  In passing the bill, the Iowa legislature simply extended the protections they offer to everyone else to gay and transgender citizens.  As House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy said, "This was not some sort of liberal social agenda.  This is just saying that under housing and employment, people shouldn't be discriminated against because of their real or perceived sexual orientation." 

Oregon and Colorado also enacted bills barring anti-gay discrimination this session.  Oregon Governor Kulongoski signed Oregon's law, having first introduced a equal rights bill as a legislator himself back in 1975 and waiting over thirty years to finally see the bill enacted into law.

With the addition of Iowa, Oregon and Colorado, 18 states now ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Iowa's new law also protects against discrimination based on gender identity, an important protection for transgender individuals, and a protection currently offered by only 11 states.  Vermont just approved changes to its anti-discrimination law, which has banned anti-gay discrimination since 1991, to also ban gender identity discrimination.

More Resources

Research Roundup

Research Roundup

In a new report, Restoring Prosperity, the Brookings Institution highlights how states can contribute to revitalizing older industrial cities by capitalizing on existing assets like transit systems and universities.  By encouraging reinvestment in those assets to modernize them and encouraging retraining of residents, states can restore these cities as engines of regional economic growth.

How much does the US value children compared to other countries?  Not much according to Compensating for Birth and Adoption by the Urban Institute, which finds that whereas governments in most developed nations spend an average of 1.6 to 1.9 percent of GDP on family programs like family leave and health care for mothers and children, government spending on family expenditures in the United States is only 0.7% of GDP.

In The SCHIP Shortfall Crisis: Ramifications for Minority Children, the Center for American Progress warns that the lack of federal funding is leaving many states with shortfalls in paying for children's health care-- and that large portions of those left uninsured will be children of color if funding is not found.

In a new report, the Urban Institute highlights a number of programs designed to increase employment opportunities for low-income workers.  One key approach in many successful programs is to link programs targetting former and current TANF recipients with the broader population through partnerships with public and private sector organizations.

As universities work to patent and license their on-campus research, both to increase revenue and build job-creation strategies in surrounding communities, Stanford Professor Mark Lemley has written a paper highlighting the costs of aggressive university patenting in undermining technological innovation when they engage in exclusive licensing.  His paper argues that university policies should encourage the broadest social impact, not merely the maximum licensing revenue as their goal.  His paper follows on a similar study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.


Protecting Parents from Workplace Discrimination

Progressive States Network & MomsRising, Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Family Responsibilities 

EEOC, Enforcement Guidance: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities

Alaska Unlawful Employment Practices statute includes "parenthood" within categories protected from discrimination 

District of Columbia Human Rights Act specifically bars discrimination based on "family responsibilities"

Pennsylvania SB 280, proposed bill to bar discrimination based on "marital" or "familial" status

Union Construction Jobs offer a Way out of Gang Life

L.A. Times, L.A. Gang Members go Union

Illinois Building Homes: Rebuilding Lives

Michigan Report to the Legislature, Accomplishments in Prisoner Education

U.S. House of Representatives, Offender Re-entry: What is Needed to Provide Criminal Offenders with a Real Second Chance

Washington D.C., Workforce Investment Annual Report

Extending Civil Rights to Gay Citizens

Iowa SF 427

Human Rights Campaign, Statewide Employment Laws & Policies

Lamda Legal Defense

Eye on the Right

This past week, the long and sordid story of the ironically named American Center for Voting Rights came to an end. For years, the ostensibly non-partisan ACVR served as the primary propagator of right-wing misinformation that developed the myth of widespread voter fraud. The group’s founders, heavily tied to the Bush Administration and working from an undisclosed location, used anecdotal evidence and innuendo to forward spurious claims of organized large-scale voter fraud by Democrats.

As the U.S. Attorney scandal has unfolded, a central feature has been the administration’s baseless call for more voter fraud prosecutions, despite the DoJ having turned up “virtually no evidence of any organized effort.”? One would expect an organization that had been so embarrassingly undermined to regroup, even scale back, but ACVR disintegrated outright. So great was the direct contradiction between the facts and their message that the organization has literally disappeared. Former staff have had their photos removed from other organizations websites, and have even removed ACVR from their own resumes - a sure sign of pride in one's work.  Most appropriate of all, ACVR’s domain names recently lapsed and were snapped up and redirected to sites exposing the late organizations misdeeds.

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate


Please shoot me an email at if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

John Bacino
Editor, Stateside Dispatch


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