Protect Your Own Health and Your Family’s Health by Knowing Your Rights

by Lindy Korn, Esq.

It’s no secret that the burden of caretaking typically falls on women. But new research suggests that when moms experience stress in the workplace, it has a significant effect on their ability to parent. The study, titled “Uncivil Workplace, Uncivil Home: Workplace Incivility and Harmful Parenting Behavior,” found that moms who deal with rude, hostile work situations often adopt strict and inflexible parenting strategies that can be harmful to their children.

The study, presented at the American Psychological Association (APA) annual meeting, defined workplace incivility as behavior that is rude, disrespectful, impolite, or that violates workplace norms of respect. It also found that workplace incivility was linked to compromised job performance, increased stress, an ability to make decisions, and feeling inadequate when it comes to parenting.

It is important for working women and men to be aware of particularly hostile situations that are inconsistent with their rights, and to know about the laws that protect them. For example, an employer cannot:

  • discriminate against you or harass you because you have children under the age of 18
  • refuse to hire or promote you, pay you less, or take other negative action against you simply because you have children
  • fire you for adopting a child, implying you will be less dedicated to your work
  • refuse to hire you just because you are a single parent
  • refuse to provide you with an alternate, more flexible, work schedule if one is routinely offered to workers without caregiving responsibilities
  • discriminate against you based on your immigration or citizenship status
  • decide against hiring you because you are pregnant or have children, are seeking to become a foster parent, or arecaring for a grandchild
  • express the belief that mothers especially should stay home with their children
  • discriminate against you because you have too many children
  • fail to promote you because you may become pregnant or plan to adopt a child, thinking you won’t work as hard

New York law prohibits familial status and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, and recognizes “caregiver status” as a protected class. While federal law does not outlaw discrimination based on familial status, you may still be protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). For example, if you take twelve weeks of unpaid leave due to the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a very ill relative, and experience discrimination after returning from medical leave, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Learn more at

The past year has presented extraordinary challenges for parents who are balancing working from home with managing caretaking, parenting, and schooling their children. As employers, we need to be kinder. And, as parents and caretakers, we need to know what is, and is not, acceptable behavior.

Lindy Korn, Esq. is an attorney in Buffalo and advocate of her client’s rights regarding family and medical leave, discrimination, and more. Visit or call 716-856-KORN.