Work, Family, and Discrimination at the Bottom of the Ladder
43 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2013 Last revised: 9 Sep 2015
Date Written: 2012
With limited financial resources, few social supports, and high family caregiving demands, low-wage workers go off to work each day to jobs that offer low pay, few days off, and little flexibility or schedule stability. It should come as no surprise, then, that workers' family lives conflict with their jobs. What is surprising is the response at work when they do. This Article provides a survey of lawsuits brought by low-wage workers against their employers when they were unfairly penalized at work because of their caregiving responsibilities at home. The Article reflects a review of cases brought by low-wage hourly workers, using fifty such cases to illustrate trends in caregiver discrimination against the working poor. This Article aims to shift the existing focus in the academic literature and the popular press on work-family conflict in two ways: first, from work-family conflict as an issue of professional women struggling to achieve "balance" to an issue of economic insecurity, and even discrimination, for working families; second, from a focus on whether "welfare-to-work" mothers can get jobs to whether they can keep them. The Article provides concrete examples of how low-wage job structures fail to account for the reality of low-wage workers' family lives, with detrimental results -- including caregiver discrimination lawsuits -- for employees and employers alike.
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