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Are Pregnant Women and Working Parents Being Discriminated?


“If we still have employers who don’t understand the basics- you can’t fire a woman because she is pregnant- then we are failing as a commission.”  Constance Barker,  US Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner 2/15/12


Women make up 47% of the workforce, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.    Two-thirds of working women are either primary or co-bread winners.    But working parents continue to face discrimination in the workplace, according to testimony at an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hearing held today.

Here are some of the stories:

  • A pregnant woman was not allowed to alter her uniform to accommodate her pregnancy.  She was required to take Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave  when she could no longer wear her uniform- despite the fact she had no physical limitations. Her FMLA runs out before her baby is born.
  •  A divorced dad of three, including a son with hemophilia, was told that he needed to decide which was more important, his job or his family, after he took multiple FMLA leaves to care for his son.
  •  A female telephone operator told the owner of her company that she was pregnant.  He replied:  “That’s not going to work,” and fired her the next day.

According to EEOC statistics, in the last decade, the number of pregnancy discrimination charges has increased by 35%.  Joan Williams with the University of California Center for WorkLife Law testified there has been a nearly 400% increase in caregiver discrimination suits filed between 1999 and 2008 over the previous decade.

Working moms are also likely to encounter stereotypes in the workplace.  It’s what Stephen Benard, a professor of sociology at Indiana University, called the “motherhood penalty.”  He conducted a study with applicants who were of the same race, had the same qualifications and were applying for the same position.  The only difference was the working parents’ resumes included a reference to belonging to a parent association. The other applicants’ (non-parents) resumes did not.

Benard concluded: “…mothers were perceived as about 10% less competent than otherwise equivalent women without children. In contrast, fathers and men without children were seen as equally competent.”

The Center for WorkLife Law cited statistics that negative perceptions of working mothers were reflected in salaries and promotions.

“Maternal wall bias against mothers is an order of magnitude larger than glass ceiling bias against women in general. The most famous study found that when subjects were given identical resumes, one but not the other a mother, the mother was 79% less likely to be hired, 100% less likely to be  promoted, offered an average of $11,000 less in salary, and held to higher             performance and punctuality standards.”

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is asking the public to weigh in.  The commission meeting record will be held open for 15 days.  Members of the public can submit written comments. They can be mailed to Commission Meeting, EEOC Executive Officer, 131 M St NE, Washington, DC 20507 or emailed to

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Category: Parenting

Comments (2)

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  1. Informative. Thanks. Passed it on to my daughter.

  2. stacy says:

    Interesting and sad.

    This bais against parents, or soon to be parents, seems to be a reflection on our society in general: the power of the mighty dollar is valued over all else.

    I just read an article that the number of pregnancy discrimination claims increased nearly 30% in three years in Arizona (a right-to-work state).

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