Was supervisor’s decision to ease mother’s workload discriminatory?


During her first four years with the city police department, Anjuli, a police detective, received glowing performance reviews and was assumed to be on a fast track for promotion. However, after she returned from leave to adopt a child during her fifth year with the department, her supervisor frequently asked Anjuli how she was going to manage to stay on top of her case load while caring for an infant. Although she continued to work the same hours and close as many cases as she had before the adoption, Anjuli’s supervisor pointed out that none of her superiors were mothers, and he removed her from her high-profile cases, assigning her smaller, more routine cases normally handled by inexperienced detectives. Anjuli filed a complaint of discrimination, but her supervisor argued that he was just looking out for her and did nothing wrong. Is he right?


No. When the supervisor changed Anjuli’s workload, despite his good intentions, he violated Title VII because he based his decision on gender-based stereotypes about working mothers. While the federal EEO laws do not prohibit discrimination against caregivers per se, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has described circumstances where discrimination against caregivers might constitute unlawful disparate treatment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII does not permit employers to treat female workers less favorably merely on the gender-based assumption that a female worker's caretaking responsibilities will interfere with her work performance. Adverse employment decisions based on such sex-based assumptions or speculation, rather than on the specific work performance of a particular employee, violate Title VII.

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

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