November is National Caregivers Month.  In 2007, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance explaining the circumstances under which discrimination against workers with caregiving responsibilities might constitute discrimination based on sex, disability or other characteristics protected by federal employment discrimination laws.

This document supplements the 2007 guidance by providing suggestions for best practices that employers may adopt to reduce the chance of EEO violations against caregivers.  Best practices are proactive measures that go beyond federal nondiscrimination requirements.

Currently, many workers juggle both work and caregiving responsibilities. Those responsibilities extend not only to spouses and children, but also to parents, other older family members or relatives with disabilities. While women, particularly women of color, remain disproportionately likely to exercise primary caregiving responsibilities, men have increasingly assumed caretaking duties for children, parents and relatives with disabilities.

The following are examples of best practices for employers that go beyond federal nondiscrimination requirements and are designed to remove barriers to equal employment opportunity.

  • Be aware of, and train managers about, the legal obligations that may impact decisions about treatment of workers with caregiving responsibilities. Those include federal employment statutes and regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended; the Equal Pay Act of 1963, as amended; the Pregnancy Discrimination Act; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 42 U.S.C. §1983 and Executive Order 13152.


  • Develop, disseminate and enforce a strong EEO policy that clearly addresses the types of conduct that might constitute unlawful discrimination against caregivers based on characteristics protected by federal anti-discrimination laws. An effective policy that addresses caregiver protections under the law should:
    • Define relevant terms, including “caregiver” and “caregiving responsibilities.”
      • Provide an inclusive definition of “family” that extends beyond children and spouses and covers any individual for whom the applicant or employee has primary caretaking responsibilities.
    • Describe common stereotypes or biases about caregivers that may result in unlawful conduct, including:
      • Assuming that female workers’ caretaking responsibilities will interfere with their ability to succeed in a fast-paced environment
      • Assuming that female workers who work part time or take advantage of flexible work arrangements are less committed to their jobs than full-time employees
      • Assuming that male workers do not, or should not, have significant caregiving responsibilities
      • Assuming that female workers prefer, or should prefer, to spend time with their families rather than time at work
      • Assuming that female workers who are caregivers are less capable than other workers
      • Assuming that pregnant workers are less reliable than other workers
    • Provide examples of prohibited conduct related to workers’ caregiving responsibilities, such as:
      • Asking female applicants and employees, but not male applicants and employees, about their child care responsibilities
      • Making stereotypical comments about pregnant workers or female caregivers
      • Treating female workers without caregiving responsibilities more favorably than female caregivers
      • Steering women with caregiving responsibilities to less prestigious or lower-paid positions
      • Treating women of color who have caregiving responsibilities differently than other workers with caregiving responsibilities due to gender, race and/or national origin-based stereotypes
      • Treating male workers with caregiving responsibilities more, or less, favorably than female workers with caregiving responsibilities
      • Denying male workers’, but not female workers’, requests for leave related to caregiving responsibilities
      • Providing reasonable accommodations for temporary medical conditions but not for pregnancy
    • Prohibit retaliation against individuals who report discrimination or harassment based on caregiving responsibilities or who provide information related to such complaints.
    • Identify an office or person that staff may contact if they have questions or need to file a complaint related to caregiver discrimination.


  • Ensure that managers at all levels are aware of, and comply with, the organization’s work-life policies. In particular, front-line supervisors, middle management and other managers who regularly interact with employees or who are responsible for assignments, leave approval, schedules, promotions and other employment terms, conditions and benefits should be familiar with the organization’s work-life policies and supportive of employees who take advantage of available programs.
    • Provide incentives for managers to ensure that their employees are aware of work-life balance programs and to support employees who choose to take advantage of such opportunities.
    • Assess supervisors’ willingness to assist employees who have caregiving responsibilities on supervisors’ performance evaluations.


  • Respond to complaints of caregiver discrimination efficiently and effectively. Investigate complaints promptly and thoroughly. Take corrective action and implement corrective and preventive measures as necessary to resolve the situation and prevent problems from arising in the future.


  • Protect against retaliation. Provide clear and credible assurances that if employees make complaints or provide information related to complaints about unfair treatment of caregivers, the employer will protect them from retaliation. Ensure that these anti-retaliation measures are enforced.