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Lampitt Bill to Prohibit Employers from Discriminating Based on Familial Status Released by Assembly Labor Committee

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt to prohibit employers from discriminating based on familial status – also called caregiver discrimination – was advanced Thursday by the Assembly Labor Committee.
Family responsibilities discrimination is discrimination in the workplace based on an employee’s responsibility – real or perceived – to care for family members. Employers may discriminate based on family responsibilities when they deny employment or promotions, harass, pay less or otherwise take negative employment action against an employee because of the employee’s family responsibilities.
Family responsibilities can include caring for a spouse, child, or parent, being pregnant or the chance of becoming pregnant, or caring for a disabled child, sibling or aging parent.
“Family responsibilities discrimination can affect almost any employee,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Yet, familial status discrimination is not expressly prohibited. People who experience familial status or family responsibilities discrimination must try to fit their claims into another legal theory or keep silent. In 2016, we can and must do better for our families.”
The bill (A-2646) amends the state amends the state Law Against Discrimination to make it a violation of that law for an employer, employment agency or labor union to discriminate against an individual because of the individual’s familial status. Under that law, employers can be fined up to $10,000 for a first violation and up to $50,000 for recurring violations, and employees can recover damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress and remedies such as back pay and reinstatement where adverse employment actions were taken. Punitive damages are available in particularly egregious cases.
Lampitt said examples of this type of discrimination would include:
· Firing pregnant employees because they are pregnant or will take maternity leave;
· Failure to promote pregnant women or women with young children/ giving promotions to women without children or fathers instead of more qualified women with children;
· Giving parents work schedules that they cannot meet for childcare reasons while giving nonparents flexible schedules;
· Fabricating work infractions or performance deficiencies to justify dismissal of employees with family responsibilities;
· Penalizing workers who have legally taken time off to care for aging parents; or
· Promoting single men over engaged or married women for fear that they will become pregnant.
“Expressly listing familial status, including family responsibilities, as a protected classification would provide greater protection for mothers and other workers with family caregiving responsibilities from being discriminated against at work,” Lampitt said. “Women with children are the group most likely to encounter familial status discrimination, but men also face family status discrimination in the workplace when they seek to actively care for their children or other family members. This cannot continue.”
Alaska has a statute that prohibits employment discrimination based on “parenthood.” Washington, D.C. has a law that prohibits employment discrimination based on family responsibilities. A number of cities and counties have similar provisions, including Cook County, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Tampa. Connecticut prohibits employers from requesting or requiring information from applicants or employees relating to their familial obligations.
A federal Executive Order prohibits discrimination against federal government employees based on “parental status.” Several federal statutes offer protection to employees against discrimination for matters falling under the “family responsibilities” designation. Canada prohibits discrimination based on family status.