Is it Illegal to Discriminate Against Parents?


“Is it okay to have different rules for different parents in my family child care program?” It’s a question I often get asked at my workshops. The answer is, “It depends.”

Test your knowledge on this subject:

1) “Can I tell a parent I don’t want to care for her child because the parent is rude to me?”

2) “Can I give one parent a discount on my rates, but not the other parents?”

3) “Can I require the newest parent to my program to pick up her child at 5pm when all other parents pick up their children at 6pm?”

Sometimes it’s okay to have different rules for different people. It’s not always illegal to discriminate in your business. In general, you can set your own rules and run your business the way you want, without fear that you are breaking the law in how you treat parents.

For example, the answers to all the questions posed at the beginning of this article are “yes, you can discriminate in this situation.”

However, there are some types of discrimination that are illegal.

It is illegal to discriminate against children or parents because of race, color, gender, religion, age, disability, or national origin. Your state or local government may have added additional prohibitions against discrimination based on marital status, sexual orientation, or some other class. Check with your state attorney general’s office or state Department of Human Rights for information about state laws.

If you provide care for low-income families who are subsidized by the state, your state contract may also say that it’s illegal to discriminate against families receiving government assistance. This means you may not be able to refuse to provide care for a parent just because she is receiving subsidized assistance. Ask your state agency that regulates child care for further information. State laws can be different in the area of illegal discrimination, so check with your state attorney general’s office or a lawyer if you have questions.

Those whom you cannot discriminate against are called a “protected class.” But just because a person is in a protected class does not mean that you can’t discriminate against them for other reasons. You can discriminate against such a person as long as the reason for doing so is not because of their protected class status.

In other words, you can terminate a parent who is a Catholic because she violates your contract by not paying on time, but not because she is a Catholic. You can conduct religious training with the children in your program, but can’t exclude someone from your program because of their religion. You can prevent someone from enrolling in your program because the family is from out of state, but you can’t exclude someone because they are from Mexico.

Have you run into similar situations in your program?

Tom Copeland –

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Legal & Insurance For more information on legal and illegal discrimination see my book Family Child Care Legal and Insurance Guide.

Categories: Legal, Legal & Insurance

1 reply

  1. You are so brilliant

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