08/31/2012 05:37 pm ET

Workplace Discrimination Is Happening To More Caregivers Than Ever Before, AARP Reports

As more Americans take on the responsibility of caring for elderly loved ones, there has been an increase in workplace discrimination targeting caregivers, according to a new report by AARP.

“Workplace discrimination against family caregivers is growing more commonplace and more problematic as baby boomers age and combine work in the paid labor force and unpaid work as caregivers for their parents,” said Susan Reinhard, AARP senior vice president and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute, in a press release.

The workplace discrimination caregivers can face varies but can include the following, according to AARP: an employee is fired when he or she asks to take leave to care for a chronically ill parent; an employee who asks for leave is told they are not a valuable asset at work and gets fired upon returning from leave; or the employee is denied leave.

These cases have been on the rise for decades. Between 1989 and 2008, although overall complaints of job discrimination was on a decline, instances of "lawsuits for family responsibilities discrimination increased from 444 cases to 2,207," the report found. When looking at 204 eldercare cases, researchers discovered that only 23 cases were filed before 2000 while the remaining 181 cases were filed between 2000 and 2009.

These instances of discrimination occur despite federal protections such as the Family and Medical Leave Act [LINK?] and guidelines for how employees should treat caregivers; the Wall Street Journal reported in February that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognized that caregivers faced punitive treatment such as decreased hours and termination.

AARP's report said that workplace discrimination for caregivers must be addressed as more boomers find themselves taking on the role of caregiver for their aging parents -- almost 10 million people over the age of 50 are caring for their parents, according to a MetLife study. In the past five years, 42 percent of U.S. workers have provided unpaid eldercare and 49 percent expect to be caregivers in the next five years, according to AARP.