Was not offering all employees the chance to use compensatory time for personal reasons discriminatory?


Margaret, an African-American employee in the city's Parks and Recreation Department, asked her supervisor for the opportunity to use compensatory time so she could occasionally be absent during regular work hours to address personal responsibilities, such as caring for her children when she does not have a sitter. Her supervisor, Sarah, rejected the request, explaining that Margaret's position has set hours and that any absences must be under the official leave policy. After Margaret filed an EEOC charge alleging that she was denied the opportunity to use compensatory time because of her race, an investigation revealed that while the city does not have an official compensatory time policy, several white employees in Margaret's position have been allowed to use compensatory time for child care purposes. When asked about this discrepancy, Sarah merely responded that those employees' situations were “different.” The investigation also revealed that while white employees have been allowed to use compensatory time, no African-Americans have been allowed to do so. Is Margaret’s complaint valid?


Yes. Under these circumstances, an EEOC investigator determined that Margaret was unlawfully denied the opportunity to use compensatory time based on her race. In addition to viewing this as an instance of racial discrimination, the investigator also took note of Margaret’s status as a caregiver. 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 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers may be liable if workers with caregiving responsibilities are subjected to less favorable treatment because of race or another protected characteristic.

Source: EEOC Publication: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities, reported in Employment Practices Guide, New Developments ¶5243.

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