Claims for pregnancy discrimination are up nearly 23 percent according to the EEOC, despite the fact that protections against pregnancy discrimination at both the state and federal level get rolled back.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits employers with 15 or more workers from discriminating based on pregnancy or childbirth, and pregnant women must be permitted to work as long as they are able, with any absences treated the same as any other disability leave. Despite those protections, hundreds of women, mostly in low-paying jobs, see their paychecks disappear right after they tell their bosses about their pregnancies.
The EEOC held a hearing on pregnancy discrimination where these stories were highlighted. Many low-wage women face “an increasingly common pattern of discrimination” where their employer forces them to take an unpaid leave after learning of their pregnancies, said Sharon Terman, a senior staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society — Employment Law Center in San Francisco. The leave, she told the EEOC in a Feb. 15 hearing, is not based on medical need, but on the employers’ “unfounded assumption about the woman’s capacity to do her job.”
Three-quarters of the 268 pregnancy-related EEOC lawsuits in the past decade alleged wrongful firing, while 10 percent brought claims of unlawful failure to hire. The suits often come after EEOC investigators look into charges filed by individuals with their local EEOC offices.
Companies as diverse as Delta Air Lines, Chesapeake Bay Golf Club, Imagine Schools, Rehab Management of Maryland and Verizon have all paid restitution related to pregnancy discrimination, according to EEOC records. “At the core, all of these cases involve employers who held stereotypical assumptions about pregnant women,” EEOC general counsel David Lopez said during the hearing.
Lopez’s statement gets right to the heart of the matter in this and all discrimination claims really. Facts and evidence do not drive discriminatory employment practices, stereotypes do which is why these legislative remedies were necessary to begin with.
Photo from Ed Yourdan via flickr.