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Caregiver discrimination becoming more common

Most Texas readers would agree that it is unfair to fire someone who needs time off to care for a sick or dying parent. However, in some situations it is not against the law.

Workers who need time off to care for a loved one often qualify under the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who take advantage of the leave. The FMLA only covers workers are larger companies (more than 50 employees) and only for workers who have been there for a year or more. This leaves many people who work at a small business or who are new to their job vulnerable when an unexpected illness occurs in their family.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act can sometimes also offer protection, but many employees are still vulnerable to retaliation or termination if their employer does not approve of the leave or flexible work schedule.

With an aging population and people saying in the labor force longer, they are more likely to need to take time off to care for an ailing parent or spouse. At the same time, the job market has become incredibly competitive, and employers might be more willing to fire someone

Equal protection laws have generally evolved to reflect our societal values. As the population ages and this type of discrimination becomes more and more common, it is likely that the call for legal reform will gain more traction.

Source: Forbes, "Sex Discrimination, Age Discrimination, Family Responsibilities Discrimination" Ashlea Ebeling, Sept. 10, 2012

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