Single and Childfree! Reassessing Parental and Marital Status Discrimination

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Trina Jones

Janet’s perfect for that job . . . [b]ecause for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it.

Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell made the above statement following President Obama’s nomination of Janet Napolitano to head the Department of Homeland Security. Rendell’s observations about Napolitano, who is unmarried and childless, reflect concerns being raised in the United States by some single workers without children. These workers, referred to herein as SWOCs, maintain that their employers assume they have no lives and therefore can and should devote all of their waking hours to work, meaning employers expect single workers without children to travel with little notice, to work evening hours, and to be available on weekends and holidays. SWOCs contend that these expectations are in contrast to the ones placed on working parents, who they maintain are more readily excused from work to attend to their children’s needs, whether those needs are a doctor’s appointment, soccer practice, or simply being home because school is out. Even ardent advocates for family-friendly workplaces acknowledge the potential problem.

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