For 41 years, federal law has banned pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. But the stories tumbling out this week show it’s far from eradicated.
Prompted by presidential candidate
When some raised doubts about Warren’s account — noting a 2007 interview in which she gave different reasons for leaving her job — women pushed back on Twitter and Facebook. Many say they accept Warren’s explanation that she has grown more comfortable since 2007 sharing the real reason she resigned from the school was because the principal hired someone else once Warren became visibly pregnant.
“Pregnancy discrimination is real, and I believe
Horvath didn’t even trust her own profession when she was interviewing for a family planning fellowship five years ago. She hid her pregnancy for 26 weeks during the application process, buying multiple suits to hide her growing belly.
“It was just the worry that I was going to be seen as less reliable because I was a parent,” Horvath told The Associated Press. “There’s no good time to have a baby.”
Horvath noted that she was privileged. She knew she could fall back on her medical degree if she didn’t get the fellowship. But many women aren’t so lucky.
“The stakes are so much higher if people can’t get a job that will pay their rent and keep their kids from starving,” she said.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination by employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In 1978, it was amended to forbid discrimination based on pregnancy in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay and job assignments in companies with 15 or more employees.
The law is still evolving; earlier this week, the
Pregnant women have other protections on the job. Impairments from pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, are considered disabilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and employers may have to offer accommodations for them.
But complaints about harassment and other violations are common. There were 2,790 cases alleging pregnancy discrimination filed with the
“Employers have gotten much more discreet in acts of discrimination,” said
Barkacs said the problem affects women broadly — even those who aren’t pregnant.
“At some psychological level, there’s a paradigm of what an efficient workplace is,” he said. “Women even potentially becoming pregnant disrupts that workflow.”
Barkacs thinks that’s changing. More men and partners of pregnant women are taking parental leave, following high-profile examples like Reddit co-founder
More comprehensive federal laws with tough sanctions would also help, he said. Some states require employers to provide unpaid leave and health care to women who are disabled by pregnancy, for example, but others don’t.
“Pregnancy and childbirth take up a comparatively tiny amount of time in a woman’s overall career span,” she said. Companies that make accommodations for pregnant employees — and enforce those policies — will be more successful at retaining female talent.
But Horvath believes real change will only come when the
“It’s never going to be written that you were fired for pregnancy,” she said. “It’s essentially unenforceable.”