Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

FRD Not Just Federal Rules Decisions Anymore

For those of us who remember when legal research involved a trip to the library not to the keyboard, when we see FRD our first thought is of Westlaw's specialized reporter interpreting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. But in today's world, FRD may more often stand for a new variant of discrimination law, family responsibility discrimination.

Before you panic, Congress hasn't passed a new statute, instead FRD is the terminology being promoted by the Center for Worklife Law at Hastings College of the Law. You know they are serious about it as they even have a hotline:

Employees: Think You've Been Treated Unfairly Because of FRD? Call our Hotline at 1-800-981-9495.
In case you aren't sure what might be involved here's their invitation to call the hotline:

Have you been subjected to employment discrimination just because you are a parent or caregiver? Family caregiver discrimination is discrimination on the job based solely on your status as a parent or caregiver. Mothers, fathers, and other caregivers have been passed over for promotion, denied leave, or forced out of their jobs -- sometimes with express statements from employers that their parental status was the reason.

Have you been told you may lose your job if you take time off to take your child to the doctor? Were you not considered for a promotion because your boss assumed you wouldn't want to travel with small children or elderly parents at home? Did you return from maternity leave to find you had been reassigned to a lesser position? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be the subject of family caregiver employment discrimination.

Here are some examples of real situations in which parents have successfully sued their employers:

  • A mother was terminated from her job "because she was no longer dependable since she had delivered a child."
  • A male Maryland State Trooper was denied leave to care for his newborn and told by his supervisor that his wife would have to be "in a coma or dead" for a man to qualify for leave as the primary caregiver.
  • An employer told a mother that he didn't think mothers should work, saying "I don't see how you can do either job well," and that "women are not good planners, especially women with kids."
  • An employer stated that he preferred to hire unmarried, childless women because they would give 150% to the job.

The above cases are obvious examples of outspoken discrimination. But there are less obvious forms of discrimination that are just as serious. In addition to being terminated or passed over for promotion, parents and caregivers might find they get less desirable job assignments, are forced to work difficult schedules, are denied training opportunities, or receive unjustifiably negative performance reviews. Some job applicants do not even get their foot in the door because of discriminatory hiring practices.

What can you do? Talk with one of the attorneys at WorkLife Law about your situation. If the attorney thinks you might have a case or might need legal advice, you will be given the name of an attorney near you who can meet with you to discuss your situation further. There is no charge to talk with a WorkLife Law attorney, but attorneys to whom you are referred will charge you their standard rates.

I have been seeing references to FRD and the Hastings program for the last few months, but it was an email from the SP3Group that brought it to my attention today, Family-Duty Discrimination Lawsuits Up.


Thanks for mentioning FRD -- it is a growing problem for employers, and one they can take steps to prevent. I'm writing to highlight what I hope is evident from our website -- we work with employers as well as employees. I am a management-side employment attorney as well as being deputy director of WorkLife Law, and I regularly advise employers on how to recognize and reduce their potential liability (which can be substantial -- one man won $11.65 million in an FRD lawsuit, and there are more than 70 verdicts over $100,000). We have information for employers on our website, and will soon have some trainings available for HR professionals and managers/supervisors of employees.

-- Cynthia Calvert, Deputy Director, WorkLife Law
yes, thanks for mentioning FRD. I was recently fired from my employment after 32 years after disclosing to my new manager that my husband had been diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease and required 24/7 care.
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