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Caregivers for the elderly facing increasing discrimination rates

Employment laws protect individuals from workplace discrimination in a variety of scenarios. For example, some laws explicitly protect individuals who belong to certain classes. In practice, this means that if an individual affiliates with a certain religion or is discriminated against because of race, nationality, gender or disability, the law will help that individual seek restitution for the harm caused by being treated in illegal ways at work.

In addition, people may be protected from discrimination at certain temporary periods in their lives. When a woman is pregnant, when individuals become new parents or when people must take off work to care for a family member, they may benefit from FMLA protection.

FMLA stands for "Family Medical Leave Act." As we have previously written, this federal law allows workers to take leaves of absence from their jobs for the birth or adoption of a child or to take care of ill family members without fear of retaliation or losing their positions.

Unfortunately, increasing numbers of Americans are facing retaliation in the workplace for trying to take appropriate advantage of FMLA leave. According to the AARP, more than 40 percent of American workers have provided unpaid care to an elderly person within the past five years. In addition, nearly half of American workers expect that they will provide this kind of service within the next five years.

The AARP recently published a report entitled "Protecting Family Caregivers from Employment Discrimination," which can be found on the organization's website. The piece details the ways in which caregivers, especially those who do not formally fall under the protections of the FMLA but also many who do, are being discriminated against in record numbers.

When nearly half the workforce is facing a common issue and suffering from discrimination as a result, it is time for both legislators and civil rights advocates to take action. In the meantime, victims of such discrimination are encouraged to speak to their human resources representatives; and they may also wish to seek the help of a qualified employment law attorney.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal, "Senior News: Elder care takes toll on families," Mary Kaye Dolan-Anderson, Oct. 6, 2012

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