New Study on Trends in Pregnancy-Discrimination Lawsuits

Pregnancy discrimination complaints have been on the rise for a very long time.  In 2007, working women in the United States filed 65 percent more complaints of pregnancy discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) than they filed in 1992.  A new study analyzing pregnancy discrimination claims (pdf) was released today by the National Partnership for Women & Families at a symposium to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), enacted on October 31, 1978.

To conduct the study, the National Partnership for Women & Families analyzed the most recent pregnancy discrimination charge data, as well as detailed pregnancy discrimination charge data from a ten-year period – FY1996 to FY2005. They also reviewed recent demographic data on women’s labor force participation and childbearing trends, and data about stereotypes and attitudes confronting pregnant women on the job.

The study reaches some interesting conclusions:

1. The growth in pregnancy discrimination claims during the time period was fueled largely by charges filed by women of color. Claims by by women of color jumped 76 percent, while claims overall increased by 25 percent.

2. Female-dominated industries may be no less likely to have discriminatory practices than industries with women in non-traditional jobs. More than half the claims filed with the EEOC during that period (53 percent) were filed in service, retail trade and the financial services, insurance and real estate industries – where some seven in ten women work.

3. Pregnancy discrimination charge filings increased in almost three-quarters of the states, with 38 states recording an increase in charges.

4. There is no single cause for the rise in pregnancy discrimination suits. The study posits that longstanding stereotypes and attitudes about gender, coupled with increasing numbers of women in the workplace, are among the key reasons for the rising numbers.