Since 1978, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) has banned employers from discriminating against expectant mothers in their workforce, specifically when it comes to hiring, salary, specific job tasks, promotions, layoffs, and training opportunities. Even though the act has been in place for over three decades, upper-level management at companies nationwide finds a way to sidestep the law.
More subtle yet sinister signs of this illegal activity include hostility regarding how expectant mothers are treated. Many experience everything from social isolation to inappropriate comments. Some are deliberately scheduled for shifts, assignments, and transfers that are less than desirable.
The United States Department of Labor reports that nearly half of the workforce comprises women. A total of 85 percent of those who are employed will become pregnant at some point in their careers. A more troubling statistic reported by the Census Bureau cites women working longer while pregnant and returning to their jobs earlier post-childbirth.
The sum total of the hostile work environment and reduced time away can compromise the health of the employee and the child they are carrying. Baylor University found that pregnancy discrimination creates high levels of stress that can lead to postpartum depressive symptoms. Newborns can also suffer adverse health effects, including muscle tone, heart rate, respiration, reflex response, and color.
While pregnancy discrimination statistics have fallen over the past ten years, the numbers are still alarming. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported the resolution of claims numbered more than 2,000.
While pregnant women have come a long way over time, antiquated assumptions about female workers with children continue. Tangible evidence of health concerns to mother and child caused by less-than-friendly work settings only raises the stakes.