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Giving Care and Perceiving Discrimination: The Social and Organizational Context of Family Responsibilities Discrimination

Work and Family in the New Economy

ISBN: 978-1-78441-630-0, eISBN: 978-1-78441-629-4

Publication date: 17 February 2015



Discrimination against workers because of their family responsibilities can violate federal law, yet scholars know little about the context surrounding perceived family responsibilities discrimination (FRD). This chapter investigates both the types of caregiving responsibilities that put workers at risk of FRD and the organizational contexts that give rise to perceived FRD.


We identify features of FRD which make detecting it particularly difficult and theorize the mechanisms by which caregiving responsibilities and organizational contexts lead to perceived FRD. We draw on data from the 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce for our empirical analysis.


Caregivers who provide both child and eldercare are more likely to perceive FRD than caregivers who provide one type of care, as are people who experience high levels of family-to-work interference and who spend more daily time on childcare. Certain family-friendly and meritocratic organizational contexts are associated with lower perceived FRD.

Research limitations/implications

We measure perceptions, not actual discrimination on the basis of family care responsibilities. Our research cannot pinpoint the factors which intensify or lessen actual discrimination, just perceptions of it.


By pinpointing the characteristics of organizations in which perceived FRD occurs, this chapter shows how organizations can create workplaces in which perceived FRD is less likely.



O’Connor, L.T., Kmec, J.A. and Harris, E.C. (2015), "Giving Care and Perceiving Discrimination: The Social and Organizational Context of Family Responsibilities Discrimination", Work and Family in the New Economy (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 26), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 249-276.



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