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Workplace Discrimination
parental status discrimination

Parental discrimination in the workplace is less common than most other forms of discrimination.

It was only definitively banned in 2000 when then-President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13152.

Despite that ban, parental status discrimination continues to occur.

Moreover, parental status discrimination also frequently comes with pregnancy discrimination—so it’s prudent to educate yourself on its definition.

You should also review at least one parental status discrimination example so you have an idea of what it looks like in the real world. 

As federal employment attorneys, one of our primary goals is to educate federal employees about potential infringements on their rights.

We’ll begin this article by reviewing the federal definition of parental status discrimination. We’ll then go through examples of parental status discrimination and discuss when it is wise to obtain legal assistance.

If you have additional questions about parental status discrimination after reading this article, contact us today. 

What Is the Definition of Parental Status Discrimination?

Executive Order 13152 defines “status as a parent” to refer to anyone who is a parent of a minor or an adult who has a mental or physical disability. The word parent refers to:

  • Biological parents,
  • Foster parents,
  • Stepparents,
  • Adoptive parents,
  • Legal guardians,
  • Conservators.

It also includes anyone who is trying to obtain custody or adopt a child or disabled adult. 

On the other hand, the word “discrimination” refers to any negative treatment of a federal employee based on such status. This can include: 

  • The loss of a promotion;
  • Exclusion from work events;
  • An increase in workload;
  • A transfer to another position;
  • A decrease in workload;
  • A loss of pay or medical benefits; and
  • Increased scrutiny of your work performance.

Finally, discrimination includes acts that can contribute to a hostile work environment, like slurs, inappropriate jokes, threats of violence, and lewd comments.

Discrimination can be overt or subtle. In either case, it undermines the fundamental principle of equality by imposing disadvantages on certain groups because of their personal characteristics rather than their job performance.

Parental Status Discrimination Example

John, a dedicated federal employee at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has worked there for seven years.

He is known for his hard work and has consistently received positive performance reviews. John and his wife recently adopted two young children.

To balance his work and new family responsibilities, John requested a flexible work schedule, a benefit that his agency offers to all employees. 

John’s immediate supervisor, Susan, approved his request initially. However, John noticed a significant change in how Susan treated him compared to his colleagues over the following months.

Despite John’s continued high performance, he realized his supervisor was leaving him out of important project meetings. Also, he discovered his chain of command was no longer considering him for roles on high-profile projects that were crucial for his career advancement.

Instead, John’s management began offering these roles to co-workers who were not parents or whose children were older.

Just last week, John experienced two troubling incidents with Susan. On Monday, Susan casually remarked that John might be “too busy with the kids” to take on additional responsibilities during a department meeting.

On Thursday, Susan passed over John for a team lead position on a high-profile project. When John inquired about this, Susan mentioned that he already had enough on his plate with his family.

Should I Obtain Legal Help?

The behavior in this parental status discrimination example is just one of countless possible scenarios involving that kind of behavior.

If you think you or a loved one are receiving different treatment because of your parental status, there are several signs you should obtain legal counsel: 

  • Consistent exclusion from opportunities. If you notice a pattern where your peers are regularly leaving you out of projects, meetings, or professional development opportunities since becoming a parent, it may be time to consult with an attorney.
  • Different treatment compared to childfree colleagues. Observe if your colleagues without children are receiving things like better assignments or more flexibility in their work arrangements. If there’s a clear disparity, you should consult legal counsel to explore whether the disparity is due to discriminatory practices.
  • Negative remarks or comments about parenting responsibilities. Pay attention to comments from supervisors or colleagues that link your parental responsibilities with your job performance or commitment. If your peers or managers use these kinds of comments, it’s advisable to seek legal advice.

Even if you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing parental status discrimination, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Consulting an attorney can help you prevent the situation from escalating further. 

Let Us Help You Find Your Path Forward

Dealing with parental status discrimination is generally a bewildering and unexpected ordeal. But remember, you can hire a powerful advocate to help you surmount this situation.

Having a skilled attorney can be a game-changer in defending your rights and saving your career.

Here at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing PLLC, our focus is solely on federal employment law. That means we’re deeply familiar with relatively obscure types of discrimination, including parental status discrimination.

When you set up an appointment with us, we can assess whether your employer is discriminating against you and provide you with an overview of your legal options. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out. Give us a call today or contact us online to arrange a free initial consultation.

Author Photo

Aaron Wersing, Attorney at Law

Aaron Wersing is the founder of the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing. Mr. Wersing graduated from the Georgia State University College of Law with a Doctorate in Jurisprudence and was the recipient of the CALI Excellence for the Future Award. Mr. Wersing previously attended the University of Georgia, where he received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting. Mr. Wersing is an active member of his local community. Mr. Wersing acts as a volunteer attorney with Houston Volunteer Lawyers, the pro bono legal aid organization of the Houston Bar Association. He is also a member of professional legal organizations such as the National Employment Lawyers Association and the American Inns of Court. To reach Aaron for a consultation, please call him at (833) 833-3529.

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