Saturday, May 16, 2009

Caregiver Best Practices, not just for Caregivers

Earlier this month, the EEOC issued guidance for Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities.  This latest document supplements the EEOC's Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities guidance issued in 2007.  While the new guidance purports to provide caregiver best practices, the advice actually goes well beyond the stated scope.  

The new guidance includes broad advice for employers, including increased awareness of legal obligations relating to caregivers, and maintenance of a strong EEO policy.  Generally (and this is probably stating the obvious), do not make assumptions about employees based on gender roles and obligations to care for kids.  One footnote provides a glaring example of misconduct where 
"[D]efendant terminated plaintiff because 'she was no longer dependable since she had delivered a child . . . babies get sick sometimes and [plaintiff] would have to miss work to care for her child . . . [Defendant] needed someone more dependable'."
Bailey v. Scott-Gallaher, Inc. 480 S.E.2d 502, 503(Va. 1997).  The guidance also addresses pregnancy issues, including the employers' duty to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women.

The guidance provides a particularly interesting section on flexible work arrangements.  Recommendations include "General Flexible Options":
  • "Flextime Programs. Flextime policies generally permit employees to vary their work day start and stop times within a certain range, such as allowing an employee to arrive at work at any time between 8:00 and 9:30 a.m. and then work for 8 hours."
  • "Flexible Week Opportunities. Flexible week opportunities may include compressed work weeks, such as a workweek consisting of four ten-hour work days."
  • "Telecommuting, Work-at-Home, or Flexplace Programs. These options enable employees to work from home or alternate office locations."
The guidance also details part-time options, such as job sharing or reduced hours.  

In the closing paragraph, the EEOC states that the policies may, "benefit all workers, regardless of caregiver-status." And it's not just the employees, but the employers as well.  In advocating the flexible work options, the EEOC relied on studies showing that flexible work policies "have a positive impact on employee engagement and organizational productivity and profitability."    

For that reason, the new document is more than just guidance on caregiver issues, it's a source for flexible work options that could benefit everyone.