For every kind of bias and discrimination that we fight against and conquer, another arises. The young, the old, married, the single, the pregnant. Wait, what? In a time that is supposed to be blissful, women are being treated unfairly in many workplaces across the nation.
A report from the National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance indicates that discrimination against pregnant women, particularly a disproportionate number of lower paid women or in professions dominated by men. The report outlines several examples of the sneaky ways in which employers are discriminating:
- A pregnant package delivery driver’s doctor said she couldn’t lift heavy objects, but they would not put her on light duty, despite coworkers with back injuries being put on light duty.
- A pregnant postal employee requested to be put on indoor duty on hotter days, and despite coworkers with temporary disabilities being accommodated, her request was denied.
- A pregnant cashier asked for a stool so she could rest while at the register, but her boss claimed that due to equality, she would get no stool. “You can’t get special treatment since a man can’t get pregnant,” the report states the employer said.
- A pregnant restaurant line worker not only had her water bottle taken away that she had always carried, but although having taken time off for doctor visits in the past, because they were related to her pregnancy, she was no longer given time off.
To whoever is discriminating, demeaning, or bullying an expectant mother, you must remember that you are here because someone was once pregnant with you! Now that you know my opinion on the issue, the question is, how can business decision makers help to make sure that this discrimination isn’t taking place?
How can businesses ensure this doesn’t happen?
1. Nearly every company has some kind of professional development. We are well informed of sexual harassment laws, company policy, safety, and emergency procedure. Make sure to include the fair treatment of others when you are planning for professional development presentations. Alas, someone will discriminate against the wrong expectant mother, and those safety and emergency procedure skills will be showcased.
2. Keep open lines of communication with your employees. Often expectant mothers feel as if they need to keep their news secret until it is obvious they are expecting. Encourage women to confide in you early on. It doesn’t have to be announced to the entire staff. Some of the discrimination issues could stem from the sensitivity of going public with a pregnancy. Often mothers want to keep the news to themselves until into the second trimester, and while all employees should be respectful to others at all times, it is difficult to diffuse a situation when you cannot disclose pertinent information.
3. Keep employees abreast of the law. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It states that “for reasons of sex /gender” including but not limited to pregnancy, childbirth, and complications or issues related to pregnancy and child birth, no one shall be discriminated against.
The interesting fact is that this seems so obvious to most of us. It has been twenty-five years since the amendment was put into place. Just like discriminating against someone on the basis of skin or religion seems ludicrous, discriminating on the basis on issues related to pregnancy seems totally asinine. It leads me to wonder what other kinds of discrimination we will look back on in disbelief.