Was selection of mother for RIF discriminatory?


Simone, the mother of two elementary-school-age children, filed an EEOC charge alleging sex discrimination after she was terminated from her position as a reporter with a daily newspaper. Her employer asserts that Simone was laid off as part of a reduction in force (RIF) in response to decreased revenue. The employer states that Alex, Simone’s supervisor, compared Simone with two other reporters in the same department to determine which employee to lay off. According to Alex, he considered Jocelyn (an older woman with two grown children) to be a superior worker and chose Louis (a young male worker with no children) over Simone because Louis had shown exceptional initiative and creativity. Was the supervisor’s choice based on sex discrimination or caregiver status?


No. An EEOC investigator would not find that Simone was subjected to sex discrimination because the reasons provided by Alex for selecting her for RIF discharge were not a pretext for sex discrimination. An investigation would show that Alex considered Jocelyn to be a superior worker to Simone because Jocelyn's work needed less editing and supervision and she had the most experience of anyone in the department. Also, the supervisor favored Louis because he had written several stories that had received national publicity and he had created a new feature to increase youth readership and advertising revenue. While Simone's work was satisfactory, she lacked the unique talents that Jocelyn and Louis each brought to the department, according to Alex.

Although 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 or the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC has issued guidance explaining the circumstances under which discrimination against workers with caregiving responsibilities might constitute discrimination. The EEOC has also issued supplementary documentation that provides suggestions employers may adopt to reduce the chance of EEO violations against caregivers and to remove barriers to equal employment opportunity.

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

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