Let’s talk about pregnancy discrimination. Let’s talk about being pregnant, and dealing with people who, for some reason or other, can’t wrap their minds around the fact that while your priorities are about to change, you're still a capable employee. Let's talk about pregnant people being subjected to bully behaviors in order to force them to quit and/or lose their jobs. It happened to me, and it happened to the following moms who were willing to describe the moment they were fired for being pregnant. Most importantly, let's talk about why it's absolutely not OK.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 "prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy" and covers discrimination "on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." That doesn't mean pregnancy discrimination doesn't happen, though. When I was working for my first employer, my superior said my "consistent tardiness" was cause for termination, even though I was only late a hand-full of times and each time was the result of a medical emergency related my pregnancy. I was terminated the day I left the hospital for treatment for a threatened abortion (spontaneous bleeding while pregnant). The second time I was fired for being pregnant, my employer refused to make reasonable accommodations for my pregnancy (as requested by my OB-GYN) and, instead, simply chose to terminate my employment.
Other mothers have experienced similar situations. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, nearly 31,000 charges of pregnancy discrimination were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and equivalent state agencies between October 2010 and September 2015. I spoke with a teacher, a lawyer, a bartender, a marketing representative, and a gallery assistant, who all gave me the low-down on how they were wrongfully terminated from their jobs for daring to procreate.
“I was fired when I was a teacher with DC Public Schools. There was a reduction in force (RIF) and five teachers were removed from this particular school, and three of us (the only pregnant women in the school) were all fired. We were told by our other co-workers that the principal ‘hates pregnant women because of the need to have to get substitutes and interrupt the kids familiarity with their teacher.’ [The principal, of course, wrote another reason on our paper, but I know I was discriminated upon.”
“With my first, 13 years ago, I was working a temp-to-hire job at a bank and was set to be hired on until they found out I was pregnant. [They said they] 'didn’t need me,' then hired someone else.
My second was much more devastating because it was a job I really loved and had quit another job for, and that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I was able to file suit in large part because they emailed me to fire me, but their response to it was vicious, accusing me of not knowing who the father was, and that my other kid was ‘sexually confused’ and trying to portray me as lying about previous obligations for the job I quit. I won the case and settled, but it really messed me up.”
“I found out I was pregnant while I was bartending at a dive bar. I knew local laws would not permit an employer to fire an employee over pregnancy, but the particular environment (strip club) had different requirements than most places and in general broke a lot of labour laws.I worked until month four before telling my boss I was expecting, and we discussed (knowing this would be my third child) at what point I would be obviously pregnant and whether, in her words, I would, ‘want to keep working at that point.’
She pressured me into setting an end date (end of January and I was due in April). After hiring several replacements who didn’t pan out, she eventually suggested I just stay on. I was glad for that and worked through to the beginning of March (27 weeks), at which point she hired a new general manager who came in at the end of my shift (I was full-time and this was the last shift of the pay period). He told me I was ‘too fat and too pregnant’ to stay on, and that it was time for me to go. As a consolation, he did say I would be welcome back after the kid was born... if I could ‘lose the weight.’ All told I could have fought, it but the reality of the situation was that it really was not the ideal environment to be in while heavily pregnant.”
“I am an attorney. Twenty-four years ago, I told the partner in charge of my department I was pregnant. Suddenly, I was being sent to all out-of-office appointments, some of them over 100 miles from the office (even sending me to upstate New York in snow storms). This was a huge departure from my prior schedule. I was not allowed to switch with other attorneys. It was harassment and, in those days, you could not complain. Once my daughter was born, they cut my leave short demanding an early return on three day’s notice. My only option was to resign. Back then you couldn’t sue, and being fired was the death of your career.”
“I found out I was pregnant a few days before starting a new job: a senior-level role in marketing. I told my boss three months later, as I entered second the trimester (which is what I did for everyone, except our parents, since the first trimester is the riskiest). In those first three months, my job performance and work ethic was praised regularly and I was told all the time how thrilled she was to have me on her team. And when I announced [my pregnancy], my boss seemed very happy for me. But four-to-five days after she knew, everything I did was wrong. My boss would say terrible things to me, followed me (and only me) to the bathroom regularly, clock-watched only me, nitpicked everything I did, and started micromanaging me. On one holiday eve, everyone but me was dismissed a few hours early. I was dismissed 10 minutes early. A colleague and I even put the pregnancy theory to the test when my boss told me something I wrote was terrible and my colleague needs to re-write it. My (not pregnant) colleague changed a few adjectives, but otherwise submitted the same work. My boss loved ‘her version.’
At eight months pregnant, I was fired for so-called ‘insubordination,’ but when I asked for an example of my ‘insubordinate behavior’ my boss was unable to provide one. It was without a doubt the worst experience in my professional career, and led to me going out on my own in the marketing industry.”
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.