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FRD Lawsuits: Coming Soon to a Workplace Near You

Michael Fox of Employers Lawyer Blog tells us about a new category of lawsuits that we anticipate: Family Responsibility Discrimination, or FRD. Fox assures employers that FRD isn't a new statute; rather, it's an acronym being promoted by the Center for Worklife Law at Hastings College of Law. Examples of FRD include cases where a pregnant employee is told to get an abortion if she wishes to remain employed, a less qualified parent without children is promoted over a more qualified parent (typically, this one hits women harder) or a male state trooper is 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.

This report by the Worklife Center offers some statistics on the latest FRD cases. Not surprisingly, 92 percent are filed by women. Moreover,  small, local businesses make up the largest component of companies sued for family caregiver discrimination. That's not surprising either, because small businesses don't have as much redundancy in the workforce and may not have as much ability as a larger company to offer flexible schedules to working parents.

George Lenard of the Employment Blawg offers some discussion of the legal theories underlying FRD litigation. He suggests that FRD suits are grounded in sex or pregnancy discrimination. But Lenard doesn't find this basis satisfying. Lenard believes:

A more promising basis for such claims would seem to be the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a statute that does specifically — and with great precision — protect employees against undue conflict between family responsibilities and work responsibilities.

Lenard concludes that the FRD line of cases are really nothing new at all -- either "good old-fashioned disparate treatment gender discrimination" or potential FMLA violations. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 20, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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