Parental Status Discrimination in the Federal Government

What Is Parental Status Discrimination?

Parental status discrimination frequently manifests as a form of sex and/or disability discrimination and is closely related to/can include pregnancy discrimination. And, though parental status is not a protected category, under Executive Order 13152, issued in 2000, discrimination based on an individual’s parental status is prohibited. This covers both current employees and job applicants.

According to this Executive Order, “status as a parent” includes the following:

  • A biological or adoptive parent
  • A foster parent
  • A stepparent
  • A custodian of a legal ward
  • An in loco parentis

“Status as a parent” may also include someone who is actively seeking the legal custody or adoption of a child under the age of 18 or who is 18 or older but incapable of self-care.

Types of Parental Status Discrimination

Generally speaking, treating someone inequitably or harassing them because they are a parent or caregiver may be considered parental status discrimination. However, because this is a lesser-discussed form of workplace discrimination, it can be difficult to spot when it happens.

Examples of discrimination based on parental status include:

  • Holding parents to harsher standards than non-parents
  • Making comments or disparaging remarks about the parent based on stereotypes about their role as a parent
  • Unfairly cutting someone’s hours because they are a parent
  • Transferring someone to a different job that pays less because they had a baby
  • Refusing to promote someone because they had children
  • Not including someone in professional activities, trips, etc. because they are a parent
  • Firing someone because they are pregnant

Do You Have Grounds for Filling an EEOC Complaint

No one should have to face discrimination in the workplace. Federal employees facing parental status discrimination can seek recourse by filing a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC not only protects federal employees and job applicants from discrimination but also from retaliation associated with opposing employment discrimination. Additionally, the EEOC has a specific process for federal employees filing a complaint.

Depending on your specific circumstances, the process of filing a discrimination complaint against your federal employer may include the following:

  • Contacting an EEO Counselor at your specific agency within 45 days of when the discrimination incident occurred
  • Participating in EEO counseling or an alternative dispute resolution program (ADR)
  • Filing a formal discrimination complaint
  • EEO investigation
  • Requesting a hearing with an EEOC Administrative Judge
  • Asking the agency to issue a decision

At the end of the process, the EEOC will issue a final decision. If you disagree with their decision, you have the option to appeal the decision, and should you disagree with the appeal decision, you may request the EEOC reconsider the case.

Finally, there are situations in which filing a lawsuit may be necessary. However, you cannot jump straight to filing a lawsuit. Typically, you must go through the administrative complaint process first, and there are specific points when you can file a lawsuit. Your attorney can help you determine when and if suing is a good option for your particular situation.

Note: The EEOC does not enforce Executive Orders. However, sex- and disability-based discrimination are covered under the EEOC. Speak with an attorney to determine how best to proceed with your case.

If you are a federal employee and believe you have been discriminated against based on your status as a parent or caregiver, reach out to John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorney at Law. We can help you determine your best course of action, including whether filing a complaint with the EEOC is appropriate.