Human resources professionals at businesses across the UnitedStates must be conversant in myriad rules, regulations andrequirements that protect both their employers and employees.

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Related: Family caregivers pay hefty price to care for lovedones

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This responsibility clearly extends to understanding andsupporting employees who are also parents and caregivers to ensurethat they are provided equal employment opportunities.

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Unfortunately, many businesses have not kept up with thechanging needs of the growing number of employees caring for familymembers.

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An increasing number of state or county laws are gaining groundto protect employee rights in these areas. Additionally, courts arestarting to read family care accommodation obligations into lawsthat already exist. The concept of family responsibilities discrimination (FRD) istaking many in HR by surprise, both as a growing litigation trend,and in some places, a statutory obligation.

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Family responsibilities discrimination affects U.S. businessesof all sizes and industries. In fact, over the last ten years FRDlawsuits have increased 269 percent, theCenter for WorkLife Law at the University of California, HastingsCollege of Law, and such cases are increasingly impactingbusinesses’ bottom lines.

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Consider that employee plaintiffs in FRD cases received nearly ahalf billion dollars from their employers between 2006 and 2015;these same employees won 67 percent of all FRD cases that went totrial, bucking the trend of employers prevailing in employmentdiscrimination lawsuits.

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Related: What if workers who had to quit their jobs to becaregivers could get tax credits?

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Clearly, jurors are sympathizing with these real-life issues andfinding a way to pronounce discrimination in these areasunlawful.

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Broadly defined, FRD is employment discrimination againstemployees or potential employees based on their caregivingobligations outside of work. That means your employees who are momsand dads or starting families, those caring for children with andwithout disabilities, and, increasingly, the adults in your employwho are caring for their aging parents cannot be discriminatedagainst by an employer for taking care of their family members.

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Related: Employers are finally starting to deal with deathand dying

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While cases involving pregnancy comprise the majority of FRDclaims today, eldercare FRD cases are fast becoming the newfrontier of caregiving discrimination, representing 11 percent ofall caregiving discrimination suits. In fact, the number ofeldercare FRD cases has increased more than 650 percent between2006 and 2015.

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Why is there such a sharp increase in eldercare FRD cases beingfiled? The Administration on Aging estimates that by 2030 therewill be about 72.1 million elderly people in the U.S., an increaseof 45 percent over the 2009 elderly population. The NationalInstitute on Aging further reports that the “oldest old” — age 85and older — comprise the most rapidly growing segment of thepopulation and often require the highest level of care.

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In other words, people are living longer, but against thatbackground, they are being cared for by more than 20 million familymembers and/or close friends who also make up a significant portionof the nation’s workforce.

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With the cost of external resources for eldercare and thenatural desire to want to be there for one’s aged loved ones, adultchildren of such an aging population are finding themselvesside-tracked, and side-lined at work by suchresponsibilities.

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Related: How can employers help children with specialneeds?

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By following the eight best practices below, HR leaders can notonly better support their employees with caregivingresponsibilities, but also make sure they are not discriminatingagainst their employees.

1. Know the laws that prohibit FRD.

If there are state or local laws in your jurisdiction, or if thefederal Family Medical Leave Act applies to your business and theparticular employee’s situation, it is critical to know and followthese laws to ensure your business is providing equal employmentopportunities and preventing FRD.

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Related: Parental leave benefits are hardlyimproving

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Some state and local laws specifically prohibit FRD. Accordingto the Center for WorkLife Law’s report, a number of states andcities/counties have passed laws that expressly prohibitFRD.

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While most of these laws pertain to parents caring for children,or fall within sick leave statutes and ordinances, more and morelaws are specifically prohibiting discrimination based on familyresponsibilities.

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There is no one federal statute that prohibits this type ofdiscrimination.

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Instead, FRD lawsuits rely on a combination of federal laws tomake their case, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA),the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Americanswith Disabilities Act (ADA) (prevents association discrimination),the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (for federal employees), Title VIIof the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prevents discrimination based ongender) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (an amendment to TitleVII of the Civil Rights Act).

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For more information about any of these federal laws, see theEqual Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) EnforcementGuidance from 2007 on the “Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with CaregivingResponsibilities” as well as their Employer “Best Practices for Workers with CaregivingResponsibilities” published in 2009.

2. Provide professional development to HR staff andmanagers.

Since many employees file FRD claims based on interactions theyhave had with their immediate supervisors, require that all staffwho supervise or interact with employees attend training.

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Related: More employees will take on caregiving duties asU.S. ages

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Then, design and deliver training that explains FRD — what it isand how to prevent it — and provide tangible examples of unlawfuldiscrimination, such as denying bonuses, discouraging an employeefrom applying for increasing responsibility, treatingemployee-caregivers differently than non-caregivers.

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Make sure the training also covers both conscious andunconscious bias against employees with care-giverresponsibilities.

3. Create or audit existing equal employmentopportunity (EEO) policies and or adopt an anti-FRD policy.

To ensure maximum protection of both employees and your company,consider updating your anti-discrimination policy to clearlyaddresses your company’s commitment to protecting employees withcaregiving responsibilities and includes a process for filing FRDcomplaints along with any other discrimination complaint.

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Make sure that your policy defines terms like “family,”“caregivers,” and “caregiving” inclusively and stronglycommunicates that retaliation against employees who file FRDcomplaints will, as in other areas of discrimination, not betolerated.

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Then, communicate the policies so that employees at all levelsunderstand them.

4. Designate a point person to handle complaints.

Your employees need to know who they can contact to askquestions or to file any complaints. In addition, make sure that aprocess and timeline for promptly responding to employees is inplace.

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Related: Corporate America fails to embrace paid familyleave

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These considerations convey that you understand that FRD isreal, and your company values the people in its employ and takestheir concerns seriously.

5. Monitor employment decisions affectingcaregivers.

Make sure that your HR staff are proactively monitoringtreatment of employees with caregiving responsibilities. Poorevaluations, for example, or inflexible or disparate enforcement ofcompany policies after caregiving events like pregnancy or familyillness might warrant further inquiry and can prevent FRDclaims.

6. Develop work coverage plans and leave-donationprograms.

Consider developing a work coverage plan, which can be a key wayto make sure you can support your employee’s caregivingresponsibilities.

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By their very nature, these responsibilities can occur withoutnotice, and require a need for immediate attention. Developing a strategy in advance that reassigns tasks in acoordinated way reduces disruption to the business when someoneneeds to leave for an hour, a day, a week or a month to tend totheir families.

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Another way to help employees with caregiving responsibilitiesis to create a leave-donation program. Employees who are interestedin “funding” the program, donate their accrued paid time off,vacation or sick leave to a fund that can be used by otheremployees who experience medical emergencies themselves or in theirfamily members.

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Leave-donation programs benefit the employee who is able to drawon the financial resources of the program, and also benefit theemployer by improving employee morale, reducing absenteeism, andincreasing employee retention.

7. Offer flexible schedules and other work-life balanceoptions.

Consider offeringemployees flexible work schedules and similaroptions, such as telecommuting part time or full time, part-timework, job sharing, flexible work days, flexible weeks or compressedwork weeks.

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Related: 10 countries with the most parentalleave

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In addition, communicating in advance about scheduling andovertime needs gives your employees more time to make arrangementson the home front. By implementing flexible work-life arrangements,employers benefit by retaining and attracting the talent theydesire, and employees gain the flexibility to care for their familymembers.

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Keep in mind, too, that flexible work-life arrangements are goodbusiness. According to Deloitte, flexible work-life arrangementssaved employers $41.5 million in turnover costs.

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Nearly 90 percent of respondents to a Washington Post survey reported that workplaceflexibility was as important to them as their health carebenefits.

8. Provide additional benefits that help managecaregiving.

In addition to supporting your employees through flexibleschedules and other work-life balance arrangements, consideroffering your employees concrete caregiving benefits, such as paidleave, onsite affinity groups, and expanded EAP and wellness offerings.

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Also consider providing employees with online tools that canhelp ease caregiving responsibilities.

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