Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Single Parents...the latest group for work discrimination?

So you know the one….she works 60+ hours a week…bragging about how she can function on 4 hours of sleep….not satisfied unless she’s in back to back meetings and involved in every big project at work? Never saying no to a project even if it means getting on a plane at the last minute to save an account…she is the shero of the company. If she can’t do it, no one can!! She tries to act modest but you know she is loving every minute of it...

Then there’s you…a single parent barely able to keep up with the 40 hours (but doing so, even going beyond 40 hours) struggling, doing your best to keep up with your deadlines (but doing so)…hopping on flight after flight for meetings with clients. Your children wonder when you drop them off for school if you’re going to pick them up after school or if you will be on a plane. Logging into work at 10 p.m. and working until the wee hours of the morning because you had to wait until your kids went to bed before you could finish a project. Compared to your other {married} co-workers who put in 60+ hours, your 45-48 hours look weak!

True story…I was working on a project with another co-worker{married with a 20 mth. old}. We had a meeting the next day for a client and decided to split the work in order to make the deadline. Okay, so because she has aspouse who can watch her ONE child she works non-stop and finishes her half. I on the other hand had to stop, pick up my THREE kids from school/daycare,finish homework, feed them, bathe them, and put them to bed before I could pick back up and finish my work. So once I finally get the kids to bed and settle into work around 9 p.m. I notice that Mrs. Married Co-worker has taken it upon herself to finish my half of the work. I was half thrilled and half upset! I sent her an email saying that I was just about to finish the work for our meeting and noticed she had finished the work and told her thank you. She replied back saying no problem, she was just on a roll anyway and had the time to finish it. But to our supervisor she said something totally different…that she had to finish work that I didn’t complete in time for our meeting with a client?? Wow!

Even for the office workers..always a few minutes late...or having to adjust your start time to a later time..working through lunch to be able to leave on time. No matter how much planning and preparation you have for the morning…there is always something that can go wrong. For some reason toddlers just don’t like to be rushed in the morning…or your preschooler spills something on her uniform and has to make an unexpected outfit change. Sure, your married co-worker has small children as well….BUT he also has a stay at home wife and often brags about how he just leaves her home to deal with the kids while he escapes early to work…yeah that’s just the kind of husband I want. That last minute meeting at the end of the day…oh yeah…he can stay…but you? Unless you want to pay $5 a minute for each minute you’re late picking up the kids…and yes that is per child…you have to go. Your other co-workers just roll their eyes as you leave while they stay. Your single, childless, workaholic boss shakes her head at you….I mean really..where are your priorities? She stays at the office until 7pm and the nerve of you wanting to leave before 5.

So is this a new discrimination? Should some jobs just come with stipulations that you just cannot apply if you’re a single parent? If you’re not willing to sacrifice time with your family..do not apply?? Although the job advertises a 40 hour work week…if you’re not willing to put in at least 50-60 like your other married co-workers…do not apply?  Yes, the job says 30% travel, but you’re really expected 60% travel even if it means back to back weeks away from your children. Oh no, the job descriptions won’t say anything like this…instead they have words like “fast-paced”, “multiple projects”, “extreme customer service”

Maybe it’s my fault….how dare I take a job that pays enough to cover all the bills…at the same time…without having to worry about when/if the other parent is going to pay child support. It seems like the single/custodial parent constantly has to choose between career and family while the other parent rises to the top with no problem because they don’t have to be concerned with traveling three weeks in a row and being away from their children. And actually this is not just me being dramatic…there is a name for it…Family ResponsibilityDiscrimination (FDR).

Women with children are most likely to encounter Family Responsibility Discrimination. This group has been found to be 79% less likely to be recommended for hire, 100% less likely to be promoted and offered at least $10,000 less in salary for the same position as a similarly situated male.

What can you do if you feel that you have been discriminated against under FDR? Well, it depends. There is bad news and good news. The bad news…although some forms of FDR appear to be blatant….a supervisor asking you to work ridiculous hours, knowing your situation as a caregiver prevents you from doing so and then denying you a promotion…while this may appear to be a form of FDR, it unfortunately is not illegal. Even if your state DOES recognize these forms of discrimination as illegal, your employer may argue there is a business justification (other than discrimination) for giving you a promotion over a co-worker, since it is going to the worker who has worked more hours and presumably has contributed more to the business.

The good news?? FDR cases are on the rise in every state andin every industry and employees prevail in almost half of the cases. The best news…verdicts and settlements in FDR cases average over $500,000.

So what does this mean for you as a single parent? It means if you are the target of discrimination at work you can fight back…and the odds of winning are more in your favor than not!!

It isn’t fair that jobs which allow a single parent to be able to care for their children above poverty level are so out of reach…


  • sources for statistics and information:

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