As World War II demanded American men to head off to war, women were called upon to contribute to the workplace and keep the country afloat. Then the war came to a close more and more women stayed in the workplace creating an altogether new working environment in America. With a larger number of women working, the 1950s saw the modern birth and popularity of sexual harassment in the workplace. Although Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed sexual harassment in hopes of creating an equal work environment, discrimination against women still exists. A perfect example of present day discrimination in the workplace revolves around pregnancy and the challenges that many pregnant women face from employers.
According to Time Magazine, pregnancy related discrimination has skyrocketed by 50% since 2000. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that since 2001 52,000 pregnancy related discrimination claims have been filed amounting to $150.5 million in damage. So what’s the problem? Why does this discrimination exist?
The root of the problem lies in how the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is defined. According to the PDA, pregnant women are to be treated the same way that sick or disabled workers are treated. The problem is that pregnancy is neither a sickness, injury or disability. Treating a pregnant women the same as a injured worker is the same as comparing apples to oranges, they simply aren’t the same. Thus, pregnant employees often don’t receive any relevant differential treatment because an appropriate course of action is not outlined in the PDA and employers feel that the rules the PDA does instate are unjustified.
The second problem with pregnancy in the workplace is that women are hesitant to request time off in fear that they will lose their job. The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides a mere 12 weeks of job-protected leave after the birth. Counter that with France’s impressive policy that allows for 6 weeks prenatal and 10 weeks postnatal leave, both of which are paid.
In retrospect, as women continue to gain an upper hand in the working environment this issue is going to become more prevalent within society. That being said, what are your thoughts on the issue? Have you experienced any form of pregnancy discrimination? If so, what’d you do about it?