Do Workplace Laws Protect New Parents?
One minute, you’re in the park lifting your recently fed, marvelously happy four-month old in the air, and the next the baby is screaming and has made her way into your spouse’s arms. Your spouse is stressed, you’re frustrated and life is unlike it ever was before.
Being a new parent is difficult. You and your spouse are no longer the number one priority. You are the providers, and with child-related issues spawning at an unpredictable rate, you need to be flexible. Regardless of the circumstance: mother, father, adoptive parent, LGBTQ parent, or a parent of children with disabilities, new parents need to feel like their job is not at stake simply because they had a child.
In the workplace, Title VII protects all legal guardians, biological and adoptive mothers and fathers, from being discriminated against. Under Title VII, treating a woman differently for being pregnant or having children would be considered gender discrimination. Naturally, men cannot become pregnant, so men are usually only discriminated against in regards to leave for childcare.
A company can freely dictate its own policies for leave of childcare, including not providing such leave. However, if a company chooses to provide leave for childcare purposes, such leave must be available to both men and women. Otherwise, refusing the men leave would be a violation of Title VII and would be considered gender discrimination. In addition, if a company does not distinguish between pregnancy-leave and leave for childcare, refusing a man leave during pregnancy or for childcare could be considered a violation of Title VII.
A parent or legal guardian of child with disabilities is also protected under Title VII. In addition to Title VII, parents of children with disabilities are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Parents cannot be denied employment due solely to a responsibility to his or her disabled child. LGBTQ parents are also protected under Title VII as legal guardians. However, 32 states in the U.S still lack clear non-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people. In those states a person could potentially be fired for being LGBTQ, and that would not be considered discrimination. However, the same person could not be discriminated against for being a parent.
Companies large and small have gotten around this by not providing any leave for mothers or fathers. The United States has some of the worst child leave policies in the world because there is no mandatory leave for new parents. The financial and personal stress this lack of support piles on top of the stress being new parent brings. In this case anti-discrimination laws do not solve the problem as the vast majority of workplaces make it extremely difficult for new parents.