Ending Pregnancy Discrimination

By Erin Telesford

There are many difficulties women have to face during pregnancy, and discrimination should not be one of them. Pregnancy is one of the most difficult yet rewarding experiences a human can go through, but mothers are treated like burdens in the workplace. Imagine you’ve spent ten years working at the same company and were given many promotions for your hard work. You were respected by all of your co-workers who depended on you. One day, you happily announce that you were pregnant, and though you were greeted with many congratulations at first, once your belly began growing, you begin to notice, that you were being treated very differently. Your coworkers become upset when you are unable to help them with work, your boss stops considering you when looking to give promotions, and assignments that would typically be given to you are withheld and given to a less experienced worker. Eventually, you are told that there may not be a job ready for you at the company when you return from maternity leave. 

These are all experiences many women have had when pregnant in the workplace and can be categorized as Pregnancy Discrimination. 

Other examples of illegal Pregnancy Discrimination are:

  • Firing a pregnant employee
  • Harassing an employee for being pregnant
  • Refusing to hire someone because they are pregnant
  • Not providing reasonable accommodations
  • Firing or discriminating against an employee for pumping breast milk
  • Forcing an employee to take time off, change jobs, or not considering them for a promotion
  • Restricting pregnancy-related medical leave
  • Retaliating against an employee who complains about pregnancy discrimination

Although Pregnancy Discrimination had been outlawed by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, there are still many cases and lawsuits of against current discriminators, some of which are big companies like Google. 

Former Google employee, Chelsea Glasson, is a witness to pregnancy discrimination and later a victim. She experienced retaliation for speaking up about the company’s unspecified discrimination against pregnant women. She explained that employees of Google who bring up pregnancy discrimination are often silenced or forced to suffer consequences that damage their careers in the long term. This raises the question of why so many companies still practice pregnancy discrimination, and what we can do to stop it officially.

To understand the problem further, we must understand who is affected by this discrimination. According to The National Partnership for Women and Families in their Analysis of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Charges (Fiscal Years 2011–2015), women in every industry report pregnancy discrimination, but the most amount of reports and charges come from White and African American women in the healthcare and retail industries. 

Black women are significantly affected due to the percentage of Black women in the workforce. Black women make up 14.6% of the female workforce, yet 28.6% of reports of pregnancy discrimination come from that demographic compared to the 71.5/45.8 proportion of White women in the workforce and reports of discrimination. 

Many employers who discriminate use common requests for accommodations as grounds for termination. Accommodation requests such as allowing a longer lunch break or requesting better chairs are labeled excessive, notwithstanding the employers have been targeting female employees for termination in the first place.

Main points of discrimination remain in the medical and disability categories, such as requests for medical leave and time off. Pregnancy and labor should be categorized under medical disabilities equal to that of people who aren’t pregnant; however, when women request time off, they are treated as if they are cheating the company or taking advantage of the system. Even maternity leave is something feared by female employees due to the rate of women who, before they can return to work, are labeled redundant and fired.

Pregnancy discrimination continues to happen in all aspects of the workforce, and, is even implemented by other women. Those who find themselves on the receiving end of this discrimination have many options to turn to for help.

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