In this situation, it appears that the decision to not select Patricia may have been made based on a stereotyped assumption about a woman’s caregiving responsibilities. Relying on stereotypes of traditional gender roles and the division of domestic and workplace responsibilities, some employers may assume that childcare responsibilities will make female employees less dependable than male employees, even if a female worker is not pregnant.
Here, an investigation revealed that the employer reposted the position after rejecting Patricia for the job. The employer said the position was reposted because it was not satisfied with the experience level of the applicants in the first round. However, the investigation showed that Patricia easily met the requirements for the position and had as much experience as some other individuals recently hired as marketing assistants. Under the circumstances, the investigator determined that the employer rejected Patricia from the first round of hiring because of sex-based stereotypes, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
While the federal EEO laws do not prohibit discrimination against caregivers per se, the EEOC has described circumstances where discrimination against caregivers might constitute unlawful disparate treatment under Title VII. Employers may be liable if workers with caregiving responsibilities are subjected to offensive comments or other harassment because of race, sex (including pregnancy), or another protected characteristic, and the conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment. The same legal standards that apply to other forms of harassment prohibited by the EEO statutes also apply to unlawful harassment directed at caregivers or pregnant workers.
Source: EEOC Guidance: “Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities,” reported in Employment Practices Guide, New Developments ¶5243.