Posts Tagged ‘ Discrimination ’

Pregnancy Discrimination: What You Need to Know About It (and Today’s Supreme Court Case!)

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Pregnancy discriminationToday, the Supreme Court will hear the pregnancy discrimination case of Peggy Young, who is fighting the United Parcel Service over its treatment of her when she was an employee who became pregnant with her daughter (now age 7). At that time, she provided a doctor’s note requesting that her role be modified to avoid lifting anything heavier than 20 pounds. Instead of being reassigned, Young lost her job.

We asked Tom Spiggle, author of the book You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired: Protecting Mothers, Fathers, and Other Caregivers in the Workplace,  and an Arlington, Virginia-based lawyer specializing in workplace law, to help interpret what this case means for working families everywhere—and why pregnancy discrimination is still a problem we’re talking about.

What could it mean for pregnant working women if the court decides against Young?

Tom Spiggle: It would mean that the only federal law on pregnancy discrimination will not protect a woman if she needs even a small change at work to help her keep working. For instance, need to keep a bottle of water with you because you have a pregnancy-related bladder infection? You could legally get fired if the company doesn’t like it. A pregnant woman in Young’s situation might be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but only if she qualified as disabled under the Act.

Why is there (still) bias against pregnant women in the workforce?

TS: Although women have made inroads into senior management, high-level executive positions tend to be populated by men, most of whom can afford to have a spouse stay home or to hire full-time childcare. Most of these folks don’t wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, “I’m going to discriminate against a pregnant woman today.” But I do think most are far enough removed from the realities of working women that they don’t think about how corporate policies can affect pregnant employees. And there still is a prevalent view among many, in the leadership position and otherwise, that pregnancy is a choice so the company should not be “punished” for a woman’s “choice” to have a family. Finally, for years companies got away with pregnancy discrimination because women often chose to leave the workforce rather than stay in an unwelcome work environment. When the glass ceiling was low, and families could make it on one income, women just left a job rather than fight a pregnancy discrimination case. With women making it higher up the workplace food chain and families not able to get by on one income, the stakes are higher so more women are, either by choice or necessity, fighting back.

What’s the big deal with making some accommodations to keep a valuable employee?

TS: Frankly, it isn’t a big deal. Note that UPS reversed its own policy and now voluntarily accommodates pregnant workers to allow them to keep working. There have been significant improvements in opportunities for pregnant women in white-collar positions because companies are (sometimes slowly) waking up to the reality that it makes little sense to devote thousands of dollars to train a female employee, only to lose that investment because your company makes it impossible to work and have children. Of course, that’s not to say women in these positions don’t experience discrimination. It still happens. But some of the worst stories occur in low-wage occupations—food service, retail—where replacing an employee is not costly. Some companies would prefer to fire a woman than accommodate her, even if the actual cost to do so is low, because they can easily replace her.

Can you give any other examples of companies that have made positive policy changes for pregnant employees, either on their own or in anticipation of this case?

TS: Well, UPS for one has reversed the very policy that got it in hot water in this case and now at least provides light-duty assignments for pregnant women with lifting restrictions. And there are many companies that recognize the value in allowing a pregnant worker to continue to work as long as she is able. Hewlett-Packard, for instance, is known to be such a company, doing things like providing paid maternity and paternity leave. Patagonia is a standout example that provides flexible work schedules and even has an on-site childcare facility. The fact that Patagonia has experienced explosive growth puts the lie to the notion that it somehow harms a company when it recognizes the value of pregnant employees.

Pregnant? Sign up for our pregnancy newsletters to give you the inside scoop, every step of the way. Plus, don’t forget to like Everything Pregnancy to keep up with the very latest in pregnancy news.

After Baby: How I Found Flexibility At Work
After Baby: How I Found Flexibility At Work
After Baby: How I Found Flexibility At Work

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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When Should You Tell The Boss You’re Pregnant?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Being mommy-tracked at workIt can be nerve-wracking trying to figure out how and when you should spill the beans about the bun in your oven at work. You could be extra sensitive if you’ve just recently started the job, you’re up for a promotion, or your company is rumored to have layoffs coming up. It’s a very personal decision of when to share your big news, so do it on your own time. But a good rule of thumb for most pregnant women seems to be at the beginning of their second trimester. That way, they know things are going well with the pregnancy, many haven’t fully started showing yet, and it still gives them enough time to work out the minute details about their maternity leave.

But could giving your boss and colleagues too much notice backfire on you? According to a new survey of 432 moms conducted by Slater & Gordon in London, the answer is yes! A staggering 75 percent of women suggested that moms-to-be should actually wait till the last possible minute to tell their bosses that they’re expecting. Why? Because the attitudes of their bosses and colleagues changed once they found out they were pregnant (not in a good way), and a whopping 48 percent felt their chances of rising in the ranks had come to a halt since becoming pregnant.

Suddenly, you’re seen differently in the eyes of your co-workers. You’re no longer the capable, confident go-getter, but fragile. What’s up with that? I’ve had friends who’ve said they’ve been moved from high-profile accounts—without their request—because they required nighttime entertaining of clients, or longer hours, and their bosses felt that those weren’t the right fit for a pregnant woman. Whether it’s intended to be helpful or not—who knows?!—often times bosses take it upon themselves to do what they think is best for you and your family. And by that I mean they think you should be at home more—whether that’s your intended career path or not.

Sadly, for the women in the survey, the news didn’t get much better once they returned from maternity leave. Twenty-nine percent felt that they had been passed over for promotions because they had taken maternity leave, and were now perceived as having family obligations that would prevent them from doing as well of a job as they had done before having kids.

Discrimination is never a good thing, but I really hate that this sort of blatant stereotyping would never happen to men. Fathers aren’t “daddy tracked” in the office, so why are mothers “mommy-tracked”?

TELL US: When did you tell your boss you were pregnant? Did you feel anyone at work treated you differently because you were pregnant?

Image of woman courtesy of Shutterstock.

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