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Tired-looking pregnant woman wearing rubber gloves and holding a sponge.
More and more women are reporting workplace pregnancy discrimination—the number of pregnancy discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rose 46 percent between 1997 and 2011. But since employers aren't allowed to just say "you're fired because you're pregnant," how do they do it? Sociologists Reginald Byron and Vincent Roscigno looked at the details of 85 pregnancy discrimination cases from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and found that employers basically create excuses for labeling pregnant workers as bad workers and firing them. And I do mean excuses.

For instance "around 15 percent of employers claimed that pregnant women were undependable and were fired because of poor attendance and/or tardiness." In one case, an employer claimed a woman had been fired for missing work, coming in late and leaving early. But she hadn't received any written reprimands for missing work, while a male coworker who had received several written warnings was not fired.

Another case in the study found a sales representative fired for low sales ... except that, during her pregnancy leave, her accounts had been taken away and her low sales were due to the fact that she was being forced to cold-call new customers, while she was being compared to salespeople with existing accounts. Some employers don't allow any medical leave at all, defending themselves by saying it's only fair to deny women maternity leave when men can't get maternity leave. So, sorry ladies, you'll just have to choose between losing your job or having the baby on Saturday and coming back to work on Monday.

It's striking, reading the details of how women get fired for being pregnant, how similar the stories are to what happens when worker activists are fired. Since workplace activism is legally protected, employers can't admit that's the cause of the firings, so somehow it always turns out that, coincidentally, a worker who speaks out has also been late one too many times (never previously written up) or violated a workplace rule that everyone violates all the time. This happens all the time, as you can see here, here and here. And it seems that the same thing happens to pregnant women: Just being pregnant is the kind of workplace misbehavior that gets the boss looking for ways to get rid of you that might pass legal muster if you decide to file a discrimination complaint.

Democrats are trying to strengthen protections with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, but Republicans are standing in the way, predictably enough.

(Via Bryce Covert)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 12:44 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  so they should hand out condoms or threaten to (5+ / 0-)

    deploy transvaginal ultrasounds?

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 12:46:13 PM PST

  •  so, IOW, to publicans (10+ / 0-)

    you're damned if you decide TO have the child, and you're damned if you decide NOT to have the child.  

    Makes perfect sense to me...

    A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

    by dougymi on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 01:14:47 PM PST

  •  The free market will take care of these women (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jilikins, JerryNA

    and their kids!!!!! It is pro life to watch kids starve to death, you just missed the memo.

  •  seems things have not changed since 1965 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dog Chains, jilikins
  •  This will end.... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jilikins, Dog Chains, JerryNA, Lashe, Ahianne

    ....when some company gets made an example of. Spectacularly.

    We already deprive criminals of their freedom of movement for misusing it. We deprive people of the right to drive for the same reason (driving drunk, for example). We take away the cars, boats, and planes of drug dealers.

    How about taking away someone's company if they misuse it? And put it up for sale, workers getting first refusal.

    I know, I know, dirty commie and all that. But it would get companies to take better notice of the law.

    "They bash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago volume 3)

    by sagesource on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 03:36:36 PM PST

  •  The most common way is to refuse simple (7+ / 0-)

    basic reasonable accommodations.

    Refuse a teller a padded mat to stand on.  Refuse to let someone sit down.  Insist they're taking excess bathroom breaks.

    Point out the other maids use harsh cleaning products with no damn respirator.  

    Even refusing to move a rack to make the doorway to the kitchen accessible for a server seven months pregnant.

    Welcome to the Whole Foods of the blogosphere.

    by JesseCW on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 03:44:24 PM PST

  •  Here's a REAL JOBS -and- FUTURE INVESTMENT (6+ / 0-)


    1.  TWO YEARS MATERNITY LEAVE.  Provide 2 years maternity leave for ALL women for their first two children.  This would open up jobs, relieve pressure from employers, AND allow women to breast feed which is really an on-call 24/7 position, and thereby invest in the health of our future generations and mothers.

    2. FREE QUALITY DAY CARE. Provide free quality day-care for all children from age 2 through 5.  This will provide jobs and help families.

    3. SAFE GREEN SPACE & PARKS.  Every child should have access to a safe place to get outdoor exercise PERIOD.
    This will also provide much needed jobs for every community.

    These are what REAL family values and investment in the future generations looks like.

    Separation of Church and State AND Corporation

    by Einsteinia on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 03:46:40 PM PST

  •  You would think that being a teacher would (9+ / 0-)

    protect you from this but I assure you that it doesn't.  Over the years I have seen a woman in full labor forced to administer a mandatory test, women being cussed out for not "planning their pregnancy" for delivery in June, women forced to pay the entire salary of a sub because the district refused after kid number 1, women told to stop nursing if they had to leave the classroom to pump and teachers flat out told that if they "choose" to get pregnant and it's not a summer delivery they can forget getting a contract renewal.  

    It's sickening.  You would never have the same placed on the shoulders of men for surgeries and recovery period.  Could you imagine telling a male teacher "Umm why didn't you plan for that gall bladder to be removed on June 1???"

  •  VT is a "right to work" state. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dog Chains, JerryNA

    You don't have the right to work in VT whether you are pregnant or not. A lot needs to be fixed in our labor laws, on a federal level.

    A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

    by onionjim on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 03:50:43 PM PST

    •  There it is again (0+ / 0-)

      "Right to work state" has a very specific meaning which is completely unrelated to what you're discussing. It quite specifically means that workers who are not union members themselves but work in a union-represented workplace cannot be required to pay the union a "fair-share" fee to cover their representation. That's it.

      You mean an "at-will" state and that's every state except Montana.

      Unfortunately when smart and educated people get crazy ideas they can come up with plausibly truthy arguments. -- Andrew F Cockburn

      by ebohlman on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 02:22:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It is further (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dog Chains, JerryNA, Egalitare, anon004

    Proof of the on-going war on women.  

    I will never forget, as long as I live, the day the entire world had hope... 01/20/09

    by jilikins on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 03:51:35 PM PST

  •  You're the one who was born with a uterus! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jollie Ollie Orange, Egalitare, Lashe

    Not my problem. Have you seen my club btw?  Oh, and clean the cave before you go, those mammoth bones are getting ripe.

    Evolution of thought is highly over-rated, stupid is soooo much easier. Besides, i'm getting used to my knuckles dragging on the ground.

    21st Century America: The distracted, superficial perception of a virtual reality. Gettov Milawn

    by geez53 on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 04:13:29 PM PST

  •  Laura, I Might Have To Stop Reading You (0+ / 0-)

    This has gone beyond you being one of my most favorite writers to some kind of literary crush. And I'm way too old for that or at least thought I was.

    Collect Different Days

    by Homers24 on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 04:17:42 PM PST

  •  Many of the behaviors (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    directed at pregnant women you describe happen to a lot of people on a discriminatory basis [race, religion] etc.

    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 05:41:14 PM PST

  •  so, if it was shown that this kind of behavior (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    increases miscarriages
    would that mean the republicans are not pro-life?

  •  Sadly, this sounds all too familiar. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JerryNA, chimene, Ahianne

    In 2004, I was a part-time at the company I worked for.  The management of my department was told we were getting a lot more work, and the department head decided he would look like a hero and squeeze as much as he could out of the existing workers.  Since part-time and full-time counted equally against "head count" (wonderfully dehumanizing phrase there), I was being pressured to return to work full-time.  My son was five and my husband and I were in the last stages of an international adoption (which is stressful process in and of itself).  I resisted coming back full-time.  I pointed out that another woman in my department who was also part-time wasn't being asked to return to full-time work -- of course, her husband was a manger in another part of the department.  When I asked why she was allowed to keep a part-time schedule and I wasn't, my manager explained to me that her job was "structured to be part-time."  Like it was some force of nature outside of his or anyone else's control.  Of course, the glaring flaw in their "logic" was that I was job-sharing with her.  Oops!
    So when I wouldn't cave into the pressure, purely coincidentally, I'm sure, I received my first bad performance appraisal in EIGHTEEN years!  It was the same thing described in this diary -- I was criticized for missing project schedules, when everyone missed schedules all the time.  I was even criticized for missing the schedule on a project that was CANCELLED.  And also not informing my manager that it might be canceled, when, of course, projects were frequently canceled, and in this particular case, I had actually informed him at every project update meeting that it might be canceled.
    The icing on the cake was when the adoption was in its final stages.  I found out that I didn't work enough hours to qualify for family medical leave.  I had saved a good chunk of vacation, so I planned to use that.  The department head called me into his office and informed me that the "needs of the business" wouldn't support my taking more than two weeks vacation.  I was adopting a child, and they expected me to come back to work after two effing weeks!  
    I was extremely lucky in that, with some financial sacrifice, I was able to quit my job and my husband could support us with his business.  I work with him now, and it's constant stress trying to survive on one income.  We did it for our children and I don't regret it, nor do I fail to recognize that most families don't even have that option, but it still rankles after all these years that they were able to get away with this with no consequences.

  •  maternity leave (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JerryNA, chimene

    I remember working at MIT as a secretary when they decided to pilot a maternity leave program, only it had to be called family leave because they could only do it if it included men, and it was only for staff and faculty, the majority female support staff were not included.  What a joke.  The first person in our department to use it was a male professor who adopted a child.  He was relieved of his classes for one semester with full pay and spent most of his time in his office working (and bugging the secretaries).

  •  The Simple Solution (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If you're pregnant, start the process of forming a union for your company. That's protected.

    Of course, you'll still get fired. But at least you will get to stick it to your boss in the process. And, who knows, you might succeed in getting just the organization you need to protect your rights.

    I'm going to refrain from making any jokes about labor, of course. (And, when you throw your shoes, please don't aim for the monitor. You might break something!)

  •  ive seen this happen too many times (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catilinus, JerryNA, chimene, Egalitare, Ahianne

    While working as a gm for a fast food resturant(won't say which one) we were always, always encouraged to find reasons to fire pregnant workers. Tardiness, too slow, not smiling big enough- all sorts of things. Because pregnant workers can't lift heavy boxes and use all the (horrible) cleaning chemicals. It made me sick.i refused to do it. Then, last year, 1 week after announcing my pregnancy to my supervisor I was terminated for " lack of sales growth" during one quarter. Even though my restaurant had the 3rd highest growth in the company I was the only one fired. Thrown out on my ass 3 month pregnant w/ twins after 5 years with 0 performance warnings. Denied unemployment too. Lost my health insurance. If it wasn't for Medicaid, SNAP and a few donations from my tribe (im native) I would be homeless now. Luckly I did eventually find a minimum wage part time job willing to hire a pregnant woman that kept me and my husband afloat.
    We need to become a nation where pregnant workers are protected, respected and have job security. Without those things pregnancy truly becomes a gateway to poverty. I know, I'm in it now.

  •  me too (0+ / 0-)

    I have to thank u for posting this.  I thought it was just me, deeply saddened to discover it's commonplace.  (Although I suppose there is a twinge of comfort in not being alone)

    I was 'laid off' 2 weeks after we had a staff mtg to tell us the company had never had layoffs and never would & 1 week after I told one of my managers I was pregnant ( to explain my one & only tardy - morning sickness).  Since they laid off 2 others (both of whom another manager had told me she wanted to get rid off previously) I couldn't prove I was included because I was one month away from getting medical.  (Someone else hired one day after me but with a start date one prior was kept on).

    I got another job, didn't mention the pregnancy but thought it was obvious & got let go 2weeks after telling them I was pregnant.  They locked me out of my company email before they told me so I couldn't access the positive notes I had from my supervisor or the fact that I had twice emailed the entire staff asking if they had any comments/suggestions for me to improve my work & received none.

    Like  mayala22 commented, lack of protection for pregnant workers is a sure road to poverty.  I have been on SNAP since the 1st layoff & on TANF before I started getting less than 500 a month in child support (irregularly).  Had to move in with my mom & her (occasionally abusive) husband at 44.  Good luck to me trying to explain this work gap to future employers.

    I have been denied at least one other job for being honest about my son's age ( of course can't prove that, but sometimes u just know by the tone when the interview changed ... ) & yes I know it was illegal to be asked, but seriously, how could I even prove that?

    Enough personalizing, point is this country just sucks regarding actually supporting & valuing women & children & here's just more evidence of it !

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