Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pregnancy Discrimination Has Got To End

The National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance released a study highlighting the discrimination that many pregnant women, more specifically those in low paying and physical jobs face even though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 guarantees pregnant women the same considerations someone that is sick or disabled would receive. The study featured women that were capable of doing their job with minor restrictions such as not lifting more than 20 lbs or sitting on a stool instead of standing behind a cash register for 8 hours. These women were often fired, denied water and forced to take unpaid leave during their pregnancies that they would have saved for after the birth of their child. 

It is fairly unreasonable to expect that in a field that requires physical strength each employee is going to be physically capable to perform certain tasks throughout the entirety of their career. There are more risks involved and with those risks come injury resulting from accidents or the inability to perform a job due to an unrelated accident, illness or age. If certain groups of people can be accommodated, then why can’t pregnant women? 

Wouldn't an employer benefit from offering slight adjustments rather than firing existing employees and hiring and training new employees? And if so, what makes them think they will hire a woman that does not want or cannot have children? Firing one woman and replacing her with another is not going to solve the underlying issue. Employers need to take a common sense approach when dealing with pregnant women instead of looking down on someone for getting pregnant while unmarried or working a low paying job.

I think we need to stop looking down at those that are less educated, speak English as a second language or work lower paying jobs. For the most part, parents want what is best for their children and want for them to grow up with more opportunities in life than they did. Some families are just starting out on their journey to achieve that and some have already reached it, and a person's paycheck should not be an indicator as to whether or not they are good parents or should or should not have children. 

When will we begin to realize that pregnancy discrimination is not only a women’s issue, but a family issue? And bigger than that, a societal issue? Women that work in fields that are physical, require standing for long periods of time and with infrequent breaks are working so that they can support their families. They are paying taxes. They are contributing to society. Some women may choose their profession, such as a police officer, and others may work a job because working at the local Walmart is their only option. Whether they chose their physical career or not, there is overwhelming evidence that supports the necessity of a diverse workforce

 For every woman with a child there should be a man defending her right to safe working conditions while pregnant. For every couple that desires to have children in the future, there should be a man defending his partner’s right to have safe working conditions. Even for those who choose not to have children, I am sure at some point they have a woman in their life that works and contributes to her family whether it be their own mother, sister or friend. The point I am trying to make is this is not an issue that should only be fought by pregnant women facing work place discrimination. 

Although legislation cannot change an employer's opinion, it can at least guarantee the most vulnerable workers the protections they need. When employers and society as a whole begin to recognize the contributions that women make in the workforce whether it be as an executive with a major company or in a low paying entry level job, the need for these laws will hopefully cease to exist. Until then, it is important to allow hard working, law abiding taxpayers to continue to work and provide for their families. 

Please click on this link to the National Women's Law Center and tell the EEOC to issue strong guidance to employers about workplace discrimination.