Halloween … and Pregnancy?

October 30, 2008

Tomorrow is not only my favorite holiday (I love candy and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”) but also the 30th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). In commemoration, this week AAUW issued a press release and launched a new PDA section of the Legal Advocacy Fund’s Online Resource Library. We also signed on to an amicus brief in the case AT&T v. Hulteen, which will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in December and addresses pregnancy discrimination.

Wendy Williams

Yesterday I attended a symposium on pregnancy discrimination, presented by one of AAUW’s partners, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Speakers and panelists discussed the history of the PDA, recent trends, and related issues on the horizon. While I knew prior to the symposium that pregnancy discrimination still occurs, I was surprised to hear several panelists discuss studies or trends at their organizations showing an increase in the number of pregnancy discrimination cases, particularly among women of color. For example, in their most recent report the National Partnership for Women & Families found that

  • the number of pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the EEOC in 2007 was 65 percent higher than the number filed in 1992, and
  • between 1996 and 2007, pregnancy discrimination claims filed by women of color rose 76 percent, while overall pregnancy discrimination claims rose 25 percent.

Several panelists discussed the need for nationwide campaigns to educate employers about the rights of pregnant employees. Two panelists discussed complications regarding the legal treatment of pregnant women (special treatment versus treating them like every other worker) and discussed ideas for improving how they are treated under the law. Others talked about the need for better leave policies in general as more women and men struggle to balance various caretaking roles in their family with their work obligations, including around the birth of a child.

EEOC Chair Naomi Earp noted that the October 31 date for the PDA anniversary was appropriate because the current data and trends are scary, and I agree! However, I am hopeful that through the efforts of organizations like the National Partnership for Women & Families, the National Women’s Law Center, the EEOC, various employment justice organizations, and AAUW, we can work to turn that around.

Visit the LAF library for information about recent pregnancy discrimination cases and what to do if you think your rights have been violated. The next issue of LAF Update will discuss pregnancy discrimination trends and outlook in more detail.

By:   |   October 30, 2008


  1. HollyKearl says:

    Hi Alisa – At AAUW we do not give any legal advice but you can e-mail laf(at)aauw.org with your name and location, our staff in the Legal Advocacy Fund department can see if there is a member of our Legal Resource Referral Network in your area. If there is, they will send you their information and you can contact them with your questions.

    If you haven’t already reviewed our online resources they are located here: http://www.aauw.org/advocacy/laf/lafnetwork/library/index.cfm (see the right hand column in particular).

    Regardless of whether or not you are experiencing pregnancy discrimination, it sounds like it’s been a very trying time, full of job uncertainty at a time when you especially need a steady income. I hope you can reach a resolution quickly. Good luck.

  2. Alisa says:

    I have worked for my employer for 1 yr and I am 5 months going on 6 months pregnant this is my situation I am a Stock Supervisor on my job and was told by my Store Manager on Oct 28th 2008, I need to submit a doctor’s note of my risks as the company is concerned how shipment is being handled I have no problem that is required and I gave the note on Oct 30 when I came in for my 7-4 shift and was told I need to leave I cannot work until my situation has been assessed, I left at 10:50.
    On Nov 5th 2008 at 1:48pm I received a call from the Operations Manager that the doctor’s note was not sufficient that a specified list of my limitations of what I can or cannot do , I proceed to obtain the second doc’s note and submitted it on Monday Nov 12th 2008. By this time I have been suspended from 10/31/2008-11/23/2008 without pay.

    Now on Nov19th at 10:46 am the Operations Manager called letting me know that HR called and I can return to work on Monday 24th Nov,2008 for at appox 5:05pm I had a meeting with the HR Manager, Store Manager and Operations Manager and was told that they have considered alternatives but there is a problem that I have understand from a business point of view that there are too many restrictions with my doc’s note that they think prevents me from doing my job effectively and also there isn’t anywhere to put me that I cannot be placed on the sales floor or be transferred to another store as I am full time employee and they simply don’t have the hours at this time as we in a financial recession so these are my options :

    1. To resign from my position or,
    2.To claim fmla leave which is unpaid for 3 months and after that I can try to claim disability from the state.

    These are my options the HR Manager said and that he recommends I claim Fmla but I don’t have to make my decision today I can think about it and call him on Wednesday or Monday as to what my decision will be.

    On Sunday Nov 30th at 2:10 my keys were retracted by one the Associate Managers on duty that day. I conclude that Sunday was my last day and was only put on the schedule for only one week from 11/24/2008-11/30/2008. .

    1. My question is am I being discriminated against because of my pregnancy.
    2. Do I even have a case .
    3. I was not given a legitimate termination letter but indirectly have I been fired nor was I given any suspension letter for the 3 week I was out

  3. HollyKearl says:

    hahaha yes I did catch it 🙂 Lisa was great.

    Back to pregnancy-related topics, I wanted to share this info about a webinar on high school programs that help pregnant students graduate:

    “Every year, an estimated one in four girls drops out of high school — and the rates are even worse for girls of color.

    Female dropouts face particularly steep economic consequences. As compared to their male peers, female dropouts have higher rates of unemployment, earn significantly lower wages, and are more likely to need to rely on public support programs to provide for their families.
    Pregnancy and parenting responsibilities play a significant role in many girls’ decisions to drop out of school.

    So as part of our ongoing dropout prevention work, the National Women’s Law Center is hosting a free webinar for educators, service providers, advocates, and individuals that will focus on two high school programs that work on helping pregnant and parenting students stay in school:

    • Project Opportunity at Bryant Adult Alternative High School in Fairfax, Virginia, offers assistance to pregnant and parenting students, including a block scheduling system that makes it possible for girls to finish their high school courses in half a year instead of a full year. Project Opportunity is one of only two teen parenting programs to have received the Promising and Effective Practices (PEPNet) award.

    • New Horizon High School in Pasco, Washington, has a special Teen Parent Program that focuses on removing the many obstacles faced by teen parents through a wide system of supportive services that utilizes a number of community partnerships. Teen parents at New Horizon have a 10 percent higher attendance rate than students in the school’s other alternative programs.

    Join us for a discussion about what schools can do to support this population, as well as a brief overview of the requirements of Title IX with respect to the treatment of pregnant and parenting students and some of the ways schools have violated the law.

    Register today at http://action.nwlc.org/dropoutwebinar . This online workshop is free to participants, but registration is required:

    Promising Practices for Helping Pregnant and Parenting Students Succeed 1:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008

  4. clarkp says:

    On a completely lighter note, did you catch the Simpson’s “Tree House of Horror” episode on Fox last night? It was a dead-on spoof of Charlie Brown called, “It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse!” One of my favorite lines comes when Milhouse says that Lisa is dressed like a witch for Halloween. Lisa’s retort: “I’m not a witch. I’m a Wiccan. Why is it when a woman is confident and powerful they call her a witch?” Classic!

  5. clarkp says:

    christyj and Womenstake cite a recent NY Times article concerning women paying more for health insurance coverage. One primary reason — pregnancy costs. Worth the read.

  6. I had no idea of the depth of the discrimination. It is scary. Thank you for bringing up this most important issue. And enjoy THE GREAT PUMPKIN!

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