For several years the EEOC has enhanced its education and enforcement efforts using existing laws to protect employees with caregiving responsibilities (i.e., caring for children and ill family members). This week the Commission issued guidance for employers it describes as "Best Practices" to assist employees in balancing work and family responsibilities. Best Practices are proactive measures going beyond federal nondiscrimination requirements to help employees achieve a satisfactory work-life balance.
Acting EEOC Chairman Stuart J. Ishimari remarked that "Today we take another step forward, articulating not just the bare minimum required to avoid unlawful discrimination, but also thinking broadly about the ways in which family-friendly workplace policies can improve workers’ ability to balance caregiving responsibilities with work."
The new guidance supplements the EEOC’s 2007 guidance on Unlawful Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities. In addition to some common sense recommendations (e.g., train managers; develop, disseminate and enforce a strong EEO policy; investigate complaints), the most interesting suggestions to me are those related to flexible work arrangements. Some of the alternative work arrangements suggested include:
- Flexible work hours (i.e., permit a varying starting and stopping time within a certain range);
- Flexible week opportunities (e.g., work week consisting of four 10-hour days);
- Allowing for voluntary rather than mandatory overtime and allowing overtime to be scheduled in advance;
- Telecommuting, work-at-home or flexplace programs;
- Reduced-time options (i.e., part time work or job sharing programs).
EEOC’s guidance provides a useful reference for any employer desiring to become more family-friendly and better assist its employees in achieving a balance between family and work.