According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2014, the United States took twentieth place in National Rankings for Gender Equity. Although there is a wage gap between men and women, some economists believe that it is explained by the fact that many women prefer their families to their careers. Women earn lower wages since they often leave their jobs or work part-time to take care of children or elderly parents. However, other researchers argue that the wage gap results from discrimination and women sometimes have to combine their work and other duties as they have no other options. Sociologists report that people’s image of a “good mother” refers to a woman who always takes care of her children, while a “good father” should provide for his family.
There was an exemplifying case of Laurie Chadwick, who was supposed to get promoted at work, but her supervisor chose another, less proficient woman after finding out that Chadwick had children. Chadwick went to the court as this case was a manifestation of illegal sex discrimination, and the court agreed that stereotypes should not interfere with women’s working careers. Still, there are many cases involving caregivers in the Center for WorkLife Law database, meaning that discrimination against people with family responsibilities is common.
Legislating Family Leave
Although discrimination based on gender was illegal for employers, the courts interpreted it differently, which is why Congress amended the corresponding law in 1978. The amendment is known as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, stating that a woman’s pregnancy or childbirth is not a reason for employers to dismiss or refuse to give her work. The act supposes that pregnant workers should be treated like any others, but it does not offer protection for pregnant women and extra time to care for a newborn.
Thus, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed in 1993 by President Clinton. The legislation is divided into several sections, including “Findings and Purposes” explaining reasons for adopting the act (FMLA, 1993). Another section called “Leave Requirements” is a part that creates enforceable rights, listing the reasons for which employees are allowed to take leaves. The “Exceptions and Special Rules” section contains descriptions of specific situations related to denial of restoration to the job after a leave. In general, the act guarantees that employees returning from leave can be restored in their positions or equivalent ones without losing benefits.
The Department of Labor provides workers with the right to invoke the FMLA to take intermittent leaves in case of medical necessity. The employer can temporarily transfer the worker who has taken a leave to a different, equally paid position. However, leaves for newborn children’s care are supposed to be taken all at once. Employees should notify their employers when they intend to take leave if such an action is possible under particular circumstances. In addition, employees should schedule their medical treatment, making reasonable efforts to reduce the potential disruption to the employer.
Another FMLA regulation called The Injured Servicemember Leave Act allows to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave for servicemembers. This term refers to people who are currently members of the armed forces, including the National Guard, Reserves, and members on temporary disability (FMLA, 1993). Leaves are provided due to illness or injuries of spouse, parent, or child. The act also contains “qualified exigencies,” guaranteeing leaves for such occasions as official ceremonies or family assistance or support programs.
U.S. Department of Labor. (1993). Family and medical leave act, Publ. L. no. 103-3, 107 Stat. 6. Web.