Throughout the state of Texas and across the nation, the #MeToo movement forced a conversation on equality and the treatment of women. This is an opportunity that we should not pass up as a society to address some fundamental gender-based injustices that persist in American workplaces. Along with pushing for pay equity, one of the next major topics to pursue is ending the practice of pregnancy discrimination.
The workplace can be incredibly hostile to women from the beginning of pregnancy throughout the child-rearing process. Pregnant workers and women returning to the job following maternity leave often face an uphill battle. Employees who come back to work after a pregnancy often report diminishment of professional stature, discriminatory office culture, lack of support and insensitive attitudes. These factors tend to drive women from the workforce.
A brief history of pregnancy discrimination
Along with many other injustices in this country’s history, pregnant women and new mothers have often been the targets of unfair employment practices. Even the possibility of pregnancy in young women was enough to limit their career opportunities. Employers based this upon the idea that they could not devote themselves to both a full-time job and motherhood simultaneously. Theoretically, the passage of the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act ended such practices. However, employment attorneys in the modern era still represent female clients who have experienced pregnancy discrimination.
Unfortunately, we still have work to do. Pregnancy discrimination can take many forms, including:
- Denial of a promotion due to pregnancy or expectation of pregnancy
- Termination after revealing a pregnancy to an employer
- Suffering financial penalties due to pregnancy
Moving forward to fight pregnancy discrimination
Eliminating pregnancy discrimination is the responsibility of us all. To create a truly equitable and fair society, we must insist that employers treat pregnant workers with decency and respect. The law demands that they do.