Poor, Pregnant, and Fired: Caregiver Discrimination Against Low-Wage Workers

Source: Stephanie Bornstein, Center for WorkLife Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law, 2011

With limited financial resources, few social supports, and high family caregiving demands, low-wage workers go off to work every day to jobs that offer low pay, few days off, and little flexibility or schedule stability. It should come as no surprise, then, that workers’ family lives conflict with their jobs. What is surprising is the response at work when they do.

This report provides a survey of family responsibilities discrimination (FRD) lawsuits that low-wage workers brought against their employers when they were unfairly penalized at work because of their caregiving responsibilities at home. The report reflects a review of cases brought by low-wage hourly workers, drawn from the more than 2600 cases collected by the Center for WorkLife Law in its FRD case database to date. Fifty such cases are used to illustrate trends in caregiver discrimination lawsuits brought by low-wage workers.

Three key points emerge:
– Low-income families are caught between extreme demands at both home and work.
– Most low-wage workers go to extraordinary measures to meet both work and family responsibilities.
– Low-wage workers often face overwhelming family responsibilities with few social supports.

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