Prohibition of Employment Discrimination Based on Status as a Family ?Caregiver

03/17/2014 / Chris Harristhal

H.F. 2300 would add an additional protected class to the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The Minnesota Human Rights Act already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, disability, sexual orientation and age. The additional protected class would consist of “familial status, status as a family caregiver.” 

The bill defines “family caregiver” as a person who cares for another person who is related by blood, marriage or legal custody; or with whom the person lives in a familial relationship. The current draft of the bill lacks a definition for “familial relationship.”  At a minimum, however, the bill would prohibit discrimination against persons who take care of children and spouses at home. The most obvious application of the bill would be to prohibit employers and labor organizations from refusing to hire or discharging employees who stay home to care for children. Although sex discrimination is already prohibited under state and federal law, no law applicable to Minnesota employers directly prohibits discrimination against people who stay home to take care of family members, although various leave laws, such as the Family & Medical Leave Act, prohibit employers from retaliating against or discriminating against employees who take off time (up to 12 weeks under Federal law for employers with 50 or more employees) for the birth or adoption of a child. 

The full implication of such a statute is somewhat difficult to anticipate, but could include obligating employers to treat employees who stay home for periods of time on the same footing as workers who remain on the job full-time without taking leaves of absence to care for children or spouses. This statute could be particularly problematic for employers who rank or evaluate employees on the basis of full-time years of service in determining advancement. For example, an employer who grants a promotion to an employee who has worked full-time for five years while not promoting an employee who has worked part-time due to child rearing responsibilities for that same period of time might be accused of unlawful discrimination. 

The Senate companion bill is S.F. 2006.