ACLU History: Ensuring Fairness for the Whole Family

September 1, 2010
The 1990s also brought advances for gender equity with regard to family responsiblities, including passage of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that gave employees the right to take unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a spouse, parent or child. While the act was gender-neutral, applying to both men and women, outmoded assumptions about roles in the family led some employers to engage in differential treatment. In one noted case, the ACLU brought a lawsuit on behalf of Kevin Knussman, a Maryland state trooper who was denied parental leave to care for his newborn daughter because of his gender. According to court papers filed by the ACLU, a female supervisor told Knussman that unless his wife was 'in a coma or dead' he could not be considered the primary care provider. The ACLU and its Maryland affiliate successfully argued that the state had violated the FMLA and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by denying Knussman parental leave.


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