Overtime The Norm? How Single Women May Be Discriminated Against At Work

July 2, 2013  |  

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Does this scenario sound familiar? You are burning the midnight oil at your desk, all alone while your co-workers with children clocked out at five on the dot? It seems that single women may be discriminated against at work because bosses feel unattached women have more time to dedicate to work. Forget that you might have a thriving life outside of the office.

“It’s the newest form of workplace discrimination: single women who carry an undue burden at the office, batting cleanup for their married-with-kids coworkers,” reports Marie Clare. The magazine cites an August 2011 survey by the Center for Talent Innovation which found that 61 percent of women ages 33 to 47 without kids believe that their parent colleagues receive more flexibility at work.

It can be hard to argue against your boss expecting you to work late. With the “lean in” concept, women are encouraged to go the extra mile putting work above all else. According to the Marie Clare article, single women now have their own “second shift.” It used to be that married women with kids, put in a second shift when they arrived home — handling household chores and caring for their family. Now, single women are expected to work overtime not only because bosses think they are more available, but also because they are expected to prove their ambition.

But your life after work should be valued as much as your married co-workers’. And if you work for a government agency, you can complain or sue under federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws, which state that any benefits a company offers to one employee — like leaving the office early — has to be offered across the board.

“Marital status discrimination comes in many forms, with some more subtle than others, but it generally results in single employees being denied certain rights or benefits just because they’re unmarried or raising a child on their own,” reports TheNest.com. “Common types of discriminatory acts that single workers face include constantly being delegated heftier workloads than colleagues who have families, consistently being chosen for business travel because you’re considered more ‘available’ or even being denied a promotion because your boss views you as a little less stable than her married employees.”

Also, some jobs offer fewer benefits to unmarried workers, such as broader health care and flex time. Unfortunately, if you are working for a private company, there is little legal recourse. “[I]f you work for a private employer, none of the federal anti-discrimination legislation that exists apply to unmarried employees,” reports TheNest.com.

While you can’t sue your employer under a federal statute, you may under a state statute. In fact, there are 21 states and the District of Columbia that have anti-discrimination statutes prohibiting discrimination against single employees.

If you don’t want to take your employer to court, then it is time for your mouth to take action. Say “No” if you feel you are given an unfair amount of work, or if you just can not stay overtime. Talk to your boss about respecting your time off the clock.

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