Are California employers discriminating against female employees seeking increased flexibility as they juggle childcare duties and work duties while working at home during this pandemic? Some employees are trying to make that case. The linked article https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/08/us/drisana-rios-lawsuit-hub-international.html summarizes a female employee’s lawsuit which alleges gender discrimination and retaliation due to her male supervisor’s alleged inflexibility concerning her childcare duties during working hours. The supervisor allegedly ignored her repeated requests for advance notice of assignments and a reduction of rush projects when feasible, and criticized her time spent dealing with basic childcare for her two young children. He allegedly demanded that she participate in video calls during periods when she was committed to a set childcare schedule for her children and allegedly made derogatory comments about her childcare related activities. Eventually, he deemed her uncooperative and terminated her employment. The above allegations are certainly cause for concern; however, it goes without saying that there are usually two versions of the facts and often some truth in both sides’ versions. The employer’s side is not presented here.
The linked article, nevertheless, raises interesting questions about the equity (or lack thereof) of female employees’ share of responsibility for childcare within their family units. It also raises a question of whether male supervisors are intentionally or unintentionally discriminating against female workers who are saddled with full childcare duties during Covid. If nothing else, this article reaffirms that during Covid (and beyond) employers and employees should engage in a dialogue about expectations and try to foster a healthy and respectful work environment that satisfies everyone’s needs to the extent possible.
In the short run, candid dialogue should reduce tensions between employers and employees. In the long run that dialogue could result in a more loyal and stable workforce.
This blog is written as of August 17, 2020. Recommendations and legal requirements are changing rapidly, so please continue to review our legal updates or review postings on relevant government websites.
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