Pregnancy Discrimination Is ‘Front Line Of Gender Discrimination’

Cynthia Calvert, senior adviser at the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, says most employers now “know enough about the law and gender discrimination to at least avoid the appearance of bias against women,” but “the same cautionary discretion just doesn’t seem to apply to mothers, or pregnant mothers-to-be.” In an article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on November 27, 2011, Calvert also said employers do not “seem to be too shy about expressing their feelings that mothers won’t be able to handle their work responsibilities.” Having testifies on the topic before Congress, Calvert told the Inquirer, “Maternal discrimination is the front line of gender discrimination today.”

Continuing our look into the types of harassment that occur in a workplace, the Inquirer noted that pregnancy discrimination complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have “risen steadily from 3,977 in 1997 to a peak of 6,285 in 2008.” There were 6,119 such complaints in 2010, resulting in $18 million in monetary benefits.

EEOC spokeswoman Christine Nazar told the Inquirer, “Nearly 30 years after the pregnancy-discrimination act was passed, we would have expected it to be a nonissue.” Calvert said there is “the outright conjecture … over the woman’s ability to perform, when employment laws require pregnancy to be treated as any other medical disability.”

In addition to forbidding harassment of pregnant women, the EEOC also clearly states, “If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee.”

The economy has also had an effect on employment discrimination, according to the Inquirer. “When the economy soured, we were hearing anecdotally that people were experiencing more discrimination,” Calvert said. “Supervisors could use the economy as a way to get rid of people.”

As Nazar told the Inquirer, women who are unfairly treated by their employers over a pregnancy must speak up. Have you or a loved one lost a job because of a pregnancy? Did the employer blame multiple positions being laid off as being the reason for the termination? Tell us about difficulties you or a loved one has faced during a pregnancy.

Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment attorneys

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