Research

The Program on WorkLife Law, conducts research aimed at decreasing the economic vulnerability of parents and children by restructuring workplaces around the values people hold in family life. The research is utilized by advocates, policymakers and family caregivers seeking solutions to their everyday challenges, and employers wanting to develop a family-friendly workplace.

Our research includes:

Inventory of all statutes relating to work/family issues. We have surveyed all federal and state laws that help people balance work and family. Our research includes laws that: 1) limit or decrease mandatory overtime; 2) require proportional pay, benefits, and advancement opportunities for part-time workers ("part-time parity"); 3) prohibit discrimination against people with family responsibilities, and 4) expand unemployment insurance protections to part-time workers. We have also reviewed public policies in other countries to identify useful models for the United States.

Inventory of case law involving discrimination against workers with family responsibilities. We have surveyed all state and federal cases where discrimination has been alleged based on caregiving responsibilities. These cases challenge:

  • specific adverse job actions such as refusals to hire and denial of promotions based on stereotypes about what mothers can and should do (e.g., the supervisor who looked at a pregnant woman and said, "I was going to make you head of the office, but look at you now.")

  • neutral policies with a disparate impact on women, as when employers systematically refuse to promote employees on flexible work arrangements

  • hostile work environments facing family caregivers that impede their ability to perform their jobs, and in some cases, lead workers to leave their job

Documenting the continuing high levels of family care and the economic marginalization of mothers. We have conducted a comprehensive inventory of existing sociological research on work/family issues, in conjunction with the Center on Population, Gender & Social Equality at the University of Maryland. This is the first step to generating new data series documenting mothers' economic marginalization and the continuing importance of family in providing care for children, elders, and partners.

Uncovering unconscious bias against adults with caregiving responsibilities. We are surveying the literature on cognitive bias and have formed a Cognitive Bias Work Group to study the role cognitive bias plays in discrimination against adults with family responsibilities.

Best practices for usable and equitable work/life policies. We have identified existing best practices and models for employer work/life programs. In addition, we have documented the economic benefits to employers providing all workers access to work/life policies, regardless of economic level or family status. Finally, we developed a six-part, objective "usability test" to help employers ascertain whether they have a usable and effective work/life program � or a mere shelf product.

Surveying union contracts and grievance decisions pertaining to workers' rights to fulfill their family caregiving responsibilities. We have surveyed collective bargaining agreements and grievance decisions that involve workers' rights to fulfill caregiving responsibilities.

For the best collection of Work/Family links, please see: