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)