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By now, most employers are aware that denying a female employee any benefit of employment simply because of gender is prohibited. Employers may not realize, however, that it is equally discriminatory to consider a woman’s status as a mother when making employment decisions. Employees across the nation are increasingly alleging discrimination based upon family caregiving responsibilities, which employers must address. In fact, family responsibilities discrimination claims are on the rise. FRD claims arise from statements, conduct and/or employment policies that discriminate against individuals based upon stereotypical views of women as mothers and, as described below, even men as fathers.

While the first case alleging FRD discrimination was heard in 1971, the number of FRD cases filed nationwide since 1996 has increased by nearly 400 percent, growing from 97 cases to 481. “Litigating the Maternal Wall: U.S. Lawsuits Charging Discrimination Against Workers with Family Responsibilities,” Mary C. Still, UC Hastings College of the Law (July 6, 2006). Often termed “maternal wall” cases, FRD claims object to employment policies that impose a job requirement on one sex but not another and then lead to discrimination against the gender who fails to meet the requirement. Examples of such policies include no-marriage requirements for women but not men, or a refusal to accept applications from mothers with preschool-age children while accepting applications from men with preschool-age children. Sprogis v. United Air Lines, Inc., 444 F.2d 1194 (7th Cir. 1971); Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp., 400 U.S. 542 (1971).

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