Why Care About Caregivers?: Using Communitarian Theory to Justify Protection of 'Real' Workers

61 Pages Posted: 21 May 2009 Last revised: 7 Jan 2010

See all articles by Nicole B. Porter

Nicole B. Porter

University of Toledo College of Law


Both law and theory have failed to solve the caregiver conundrum for employees who experience conflicts between work and caring for their families. I call these employees “real” workers in contrast to what most employers expect of their employees, the somewhat mythical “ideal” workers, who never miss work or need time off for caregiving responsibilities. This Article proposes using the communitarian theory to justify protection of all caregivers in the workplace, including real workers. Communitarian theory’s emphasis on the priority of responsibilities over rights, the value of raising children well, and the importance of working together to reach a common goal provides the necessary justification for supporting broad reform efforts aimed at ending the caregiver conundrum for all caregivers, both real and ideal workers. This Article argues that communitarian theory justifies protection of real workers by overcoming two common hurdles to comprehensive reform for working caregivers. First, communitarian theory counters the rhetoric of choice by explaining that caregiving is a responsibility, not merely a choice. Second, this theory reduces the stigma of special treatment in the workplace by emphasizing the importance and benefit to all of society when parents raise their children well. Thus, a turn to communitarian theory can combat both the apathy and resentment of employers and co-workers alike. Put another way, communitarian theory explains why we should care about caregiving.

Keywords: discrimination, communitarian, caregiving, gender

Suggested Citation

Porter, Nicole B., Why Care About Caregivers?: Using Communitarian Theory to Justify Protection of 'Real' Workers. Kansas Law Review, Vol. 58, No. 355, 2010, University of Toledo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-04, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1408143

Nicole B. Porter (Contact Author)

University of Toledo College of Law ( email )

2801 W. Bancroft Street
Toledo, OH 43606
United States
419-530-4785 (Phone)

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