Pregnancy Discrimination at Work in 2012 Is Mind-Baffling

Rant 16

pregnant workerIt's amazing how often we see stories of women discriminated against in the workplace and fired just for being pregnant. I'm always shocked and can't believe anyone in this day and age could do it so blatantly. But they do ... all too often.

Just last month, a woman won a settlement against a Subway restaurant for an incident in which she went in to apply for a job and was told they couldn't hire her because she was pregnant. And she's not alone. Statistics show that the number of pregnancy discrimination charges increased about 15 percent in the last 10 years. It's such a pressing problem that the government is now ramping up efforts to help combat it -- and it's about time.

This week in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a meeting in which experts testified about the problem. But when it comes to understanding why this still happens -- 35 years after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed -- commissioners are somewhat perplexed.

EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru said, "Why have we missed the boat? It’s a puzzle to me.” But it's a puzzle we must solve.

Even if you keep your job, once you have a child, you may get paid less than your coworkers. One expert referred to a “motherhood wage penalty" that costs moms as much as 5 percent in wages ... per child!

It infuriates me to think about it. I've been working for a lot of years in a lot of places, from government to Fortune 500 companies, and never have I found motherhood or lack thereof to be what makes someone an asset or detriment to a business or organization. Do people with children need to take unexpected days off or leave early on occasion? Absolutely. But we are also some of the most dedicated workers out there, because it's not just ourselves we're responsible for -- it's our children too.

Are some moms bad workers? Sure, but so are some single 20-somethings who party every night.

Emotion aside, it's flat out discrimination -- that's why there's a law against it. Pregnancy isn't a disability, and just because men can't get pregnant doesn't mean they don't have plenty of parental responsibilities -- or should have if they've fathered children. To assume a mother is the one who needs to take the care of the kids or that she can't work as well if she does is outrageous.

The commission promises to start cracking down on businesses that don't allow women to make a living at a time they likely need the money the most and will "vigorously enforce the anti-discrimination laws." Great, I hope they do, but how sad that they must.

Have you ever been a victim of pregnancy discrimination?


Image via sapienssolutions/Flickr

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