As if busy professionals didn’t have enough to worry about in caring for their aging parents while trying to keep up at work. Now it appears that they are also facing a very real problem with workplace discrimination.
A short blurb in the AARP Bulletin that comes to my house caught my attention as I was preparing to give a presentation about the Sandwich Generation to a group at church. It gave just a few tidbits from a report that I just had to check out: Protecting Family Caregivers from Employment Discrimination. Read it here in full if you are interested.
In the article it defines family responsibilities discrimination (FRD) and describes the types of workplace discrimination that working caregivers may be encountering in the workplace. Though caregiving is not limited to caring for the elderly, that is the focus of this report from AARP.
“FRD arises from the unfair treatment of workers with caregiving responsibilities.” It concludes that these caregivers are not adequately protected under existing federal law. Who would have thought that we would be facing ‘equal opportunity’ issues related to helping our aging parents?
Could it be that women might be ‘profiled’ when applying for jobs? Do you fit into this caregiver profile: 49-years-old (mid 40s to mid 50s), female (65% of caregivers), working outside the home (mostly full-time), providing unpaid care to a parent (to the tune of another 20 hours a week on average)? The article also notes that, “Because women are more likely to be in the workplace and to have caregiving responsibilities than in the past, their earnings have become increasingly important to their families’ financial stability, retirement security, and to the economy.”
30% of women report that their work and family responsibilities are not “aligned” when they are faced with the demands of caring for a parent who has chronic care needs and functional limitations. And those who simply choose to leave the workforce to care for a parent lose, on average, over $300,000 in lost wages and benefits.
Let me share these examples of FRD from the article that are based on real cases:
1. An employee is fired when he asks for leave to care for his chronically ill father
2. After being told that his employer has “paid enough” for his ailing wife already, an employee is terminated when he refuses to take his wife off of the employer’s insurance plan.
3. An employee is denied leave when her employer asserts that it is not her responsibility to care for her ailing mother as long as her father is still alive.
4. An employee is called lazy and then fired after taking leave to care for his mother, who is near death.
It could be a long battle, as those fighting for the rights of caregivers seek to improve FMLA (by expanding its scope), urge employers to provide paid leave to allow caregivers to care for an ailing parent (I don’t see this happening with the current trend toward reduction of benefits), and requiring employers to provide a, “reasonable number of sick days” allowing them to care for themselves as well as a loved one.
So, caregivers beware! Work with your employer as much as possible and learn about the benefits that may be available to you. But also be aware of the possibility of a bias that is not in your favor.
Caring for your parents is a big challenge by itself. Do the best that you can to protect yourself from the possibility of discrimination by staying aware and informed!
As always, I am….
On the journey with you…….Kathy
Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant that works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent. She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.