Woah, Baby! Pregnancy Discrimination Update

business babyRegular readers of this blog will know that we have written pretty extensively on Women in the Workplace and Pregnancy (First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes Flex-Time and a Baby Carriage, The Maternal Profiling Debate Continues, to name a few). In 2008 we wrote about a new study that focused on trends in Pregnancy Discrimination. 10 years later we are still having problems.

Recently, the New York Times published an article titled “Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies.” The article is very thorough and combines statistics, studies, and stories of women of all pay ranges who have suffered in their careers because of their pregnancies.

A lot of the statistics focused on the pay gap between women and men, and how pregnancy seems to have a direct effect on this. According to a 2014 study at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, “Each child chops 4 percent off a woman’s hourly wages,” whereas her male counterpart’s salary increases by 6 percent when he has a child. Furthermore, a paper published by researchers at the Census Bureau found that new, childless couples had roughly the same pay (with husbands on average making slightly more than their wives). The study found, however, that, “By the time their children turned 1, the size of that pay gap had doubled to more than $25,000.” A Stanford sociologist conducted another study with real-world hiring managers. In it, she gave them two résumés from two women. Some résumés indicated that some women had children, and others did not. This study found that, “[t]he managers were twice as likely to call the apparently childless woman for an interview.”

And once a woman is lucky enough to be hired, it appears that the troubles do not stop. The article focused on the stories of several women from many different backgrounds—a police officer, a UPS driver, a commodity trading bigwig, and a cleaning woman at Walmart. When these women asked for nursing- or pregnancy-related accommodations—such as a different sized bullet proof vest, lifting lighter loads, or working in a different position that did not expose the woman to harsh cleaning chemicals—their managers refused to oblige. Even once her baby was born, the woman working in commodity trading noticed that she was being passed over for promotions and raises. The article also notes that the EEOC has seen a rise in pregnancy discrimination claims for the past two decades, and such claims are currently reaching an all-time high.

So how do we do better? Corporate attitudes appear to be changing: special rooms for new moms to pump, statements on websites that tout inclusivity, and an increased awareness and willingness to make accommodations for maternity (and paternity) leave are some of the more common changes. But underneath that, there still seems to be a lurking prejudice that keeps poisoning the well and limiting advancement opportunities for mothers in the workplace. Hiring managers and upper management should consider whether this is an issue of implicit bias that may be impacting their thinking.

Delaware has historically been Ahead of the (Pregnancy) Curve on this issue. In 2014 the Delaware General Assembly amended the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act (DDEA). The amendment prohibits discrimination against pregnant employees and requires that accommodations be made for pregnant women in the workforce, even if they would not be considered “disabled” under state or federal anti-discrimination laws. But this does not protect against a manager who does not even realize that he or she is passing over a candidate because of her parental status. In an era of growing awareness of women’s struggles, the hardships of the working mother deserve renewed attention and more careful consideration.