Employers of Single Parents: How to Make Sure You Are Not Acting Illegally

Posted on: 1 September 2015

Did you know that there is a national holiday designated to single parents? It was set into motion by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 to be on March 21 every year. Single parents are an important part of society. With more and more single men and women raising children on their own, it is important that you know how to deal with single parents at your business to avoid unnecessary legal troubles. Here are a few things that you need to be aware of:

1. Be Careful When Interviewing.

It is considered illegal to ask questions of the applicant that pertain to his or her marital and family status. It is considered unlawful to ask the applicant whether they would like to be addressed as "Mrs." or "Miss." You also cannot ask a potential candidate if they plan to have children in the future or who will take care of their kids while they are at work. Therefore, you most definitely cannot ask if they are a single parent. It is one thing if the applicant brings up the information on their own and voluntarily, but you should essentially avoid any discussion regarding familial and marital status.

2. Single Parents Are Not Currently Considered a Protected Class.

Although there are many protected classes, single parents are not currently one of them. According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there are only anti-discrimination laws in effect for sex, color, race, national origin, religion, disability, age, and genetic information.

3. Single Parents May Still Be Able to File a Discrimination Claim.

However, there are instances when an employer can be held accountable for discrimination against a worker who has caregiving responsibilities. For example, if a female single parent is not provided with the same treatment at work as a male single parent, it could open up the potential for a lawsuit based on gender.

In addition, employers cannot treat pregnant employees unfavorably because of their condition. The same is true if an employee informs you that they plan to start a family within the next year. You cannot fire them for it simply because you don't want to have to deal with the hassles of a pregnant employee, or you are opening yourself up to a discrimination lawsuit.

The law can be particularly tricky when it comes to single parents and other specific matters in the workplace. Therefore, it is in your best interest as an employer to consult with an attorney if you are worried about you position. It is better to be safe and knowledgeable than to be sorry and sued later. Obtain legal counsel from a representative of a firm like Robert J Willis, Attorney at Law.