You’re Hired! *Unless You’re Pregnant: Pregnancy Discrimination at Work
When I was about five months pregnant with my son, I interviewed for a new job.
Of course, there's not exactly a place to indicate on one's application if you happen to be pregnant, so the topic never came up in the email or phone exchanges that I had with the manger. We had a great rapport going, and if I'm being honest, she made it sound like the interview would just be a formality. I was perfect for the job, she assured me.
But when I got to the interview, where she had assembled all of the “big wigs” in the department to meet, I couldn't help but notice the shocked looks of surprise on everyone's faces. It's as if the air in the room immediately shifted and, needless to say, the rest of the interview was incredibly awkward.
Shockingly, I didn't get the job, and although I couldn't exactly prove that my pregnancy had anything to do with it, it sure seemed like it. I'd like to say that pregnancy discrimination is dead and gone, but the truth is, it's extremely difficult to overcome.
A Texas teacher, for example, recently made headlines for being fired because of her pregnancy — because she wasn't married. Strangely, the school, which was Christian, stood by its decision to fire her, saying, “It doesn't change that her behavior was out of wedlock … It's not that she's pregnant. The issue here is being an unmarried mother. Everything that we stand for says that we want our teachers, who we consider to be in the ministry, to model what a Christian man or woman should be.”
Um, hate to break it to you there, but that has everything to do with her being pregnant. They wouldn't have fired her if she would have adopted a baby or helped care for a family member, now would they have? Assuming that pregnancy — or motherhood — will somehow make a female employee less desirable in the workplace is the real issue of pregnancy discrimination, and that's a deeply rooted cultural belief that's hard to change.
One woman is fighting back with her project, Pregnant, Then Screwed, a website where women can tell their stories of pregnancy discrimination anonymously. “Sixty thousand women are forced out of their jobs for pregnancy,” the website reads. “We can expose this injustice.” Some of the stories are truly appalling:
“When I was pregnant with my first child, I attended an awareness event for a specialist role in my organization. I was visibly showing, and when I stated I wanted to apply for the role, the individual in charge simply said, ‘You can't apply to work here. You're pregnant!' Bold as brass. I didn't make a complaint at the time, as I thought he was right,” wrote one mother.
It's hard to see that pregnancy discrimination does occur, but ignoring it or brushing it aside is not going to change anything. Add your voice, share your story, and speak up if it happens to you.
Have you experienced pregnancy discrimination at work?