Press Room

Do “Family-Friendly” Workplaces Discriminate Against Childless Employees?

October 29, 2013
Experts Available
Employment, Family
Washington, DC  -  A 2013 Supreme Court decision, The United States vs. Windsor, expanded the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act to same-sex spouses in states where gay marriage is legal. The expanding recognition of gay couples and the growing proportion of women in the workforce have changed the way employers treat family issues and how people talk about them on the job.
But, what about people who don't have children? Communication researchers who interviewed childless individuals for a study recently published online in the National Communication Association’s Journal of Applied Communication Research found that expanding definitions of family often don't embrace people without children. Those interviewed on behalf of the study expressed that work and family discussions isolated or belittled them, and that sometimes they were expected to fill in for absent workers because of more liberal attitudes toward parents. 
The lead researchers of this study, “A Language Convergence/Meaning Divergence Analysis Exploring How LGBTQ and Single Employees Manage Traditional Family Expectations in the Workplace” can provide insight on the following issues as explored in their research: 
  • Do people who don't plan to have children have different definitions of family from those in traditional bonds?
  • Do employers need to be particularly mindful of the rights of employees without children, especially LGBTQ employees? 
  • How do childless individuals deal with the growing integration of work and family at the workplace?
  • How should employees take into account the rights of childless people while showing flexibility toward people with children?

Jenny Dixon, Ph.D.
Department of Communication Arts, Marymount Manhattan College
Her research focuses on work and family issues for employees in non-traditional family structures. She is also interested in diversity training and nondiscrimination policies. 

Debbie S. Dougherty, Ph.D.
Department of Communication, University of Missouri
She studies the multiple and complex strands of organizational power structures, and how communication occurs within them.

About the National Communication Association

The National Communication Association (NCA) advances Communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media, and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific, and aesthetic inquiry. NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems. NCA supports inclusiveness and diversity among our faculties, within our membership, in the workplace, and in the classroom; NCA supports and promotes policies that fairly encourage this diversity and inclusion.

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