Workplace discrimination against pregnant women can lead to abortions

Shoot! How is this going to affect my promotion?

Shoot! How is this going to affect my promotion?

Some women are finding it hard to keep a job while being pregnant. The Washington Post reports that police officer Lyndi Trischler from Florence, Kentucky has filed a complaint against the city with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after her supervisors at the police department refused to allow her to do light-duty office work during her later stages of pregnancy. She was given this accommodation the previous year when pregnant with her first child. Trischler’s condition eventually forced her to go on unpaid leave. A 2013 city memo states that light duty is not permitted for workers whose ailments are not related to their jobs.

According to the EEOC there has been an increase in compensation for pregnancy discrimination cases from an average of $5.6 million in 1997 to $17.2 million in 2011. “Perhaps more women are realizing that they have the right not to get fired if they get pregnant, and that they should get the same accommodations as Joe, who sits next to them,” speculates EEOC commissioner Chai Feldblum.

In July, the EEOC issued new guidelines on pregnancy discrimination to clarify the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, apply the Americans with Disabilities Act to pregnant women, and update EEOC policy. “For example, it would be unlawful for a manager to pressure an employee to have an abortion, or not to have an abortion, in order to retain her job, get better job assignments, or stay on a path for advancement,” state the guidelines.

 “The most dramatic examples (of pregnancy discrimination) are the steady stream of stories … where pregnant women are given a choice between having an abortion or getting fired. And these are still amazingly common,” said Joan Williams, law professor and director of WorkLife Law at the University of California at the February 2012 EEOC public stakeholder meeting.

She provided examples of calls to her organization’s hotline. For instance, when a sales clerk on the verge of promotion got pregnant, the supervisor said he would provide transportation and pay for the abortion. After she refused, she claims the supervisor threatened to push her down the stairs and demanded that she lift more than before. Another example is a Wendy’s employee who was told to get an abortion and repeatedly written up and harassed when seeking medical care for herself and her son that had already been born. Afraid of losing her job, she worked full shifts for three days in a row while sick and miscarried. She was later fired.

According to a New York Post article, Catherine Rizzo from Long Island decided to sue her supervisor at Cooky’s Deli in Bohemia, N.Y., after allegedly being told by the owner’s daughter in May 2011 to abort her child. Already caring for two kids, the single mother had the abortion, but was fired anyway in August. The former boss claims that she was fired for regular tardiness and that she was never told to abort.

This is not only a problem in the United States. A 2014 report from the Australian Human Rights Commission, Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review, states that 49 per cent of women are discriminated against within the workplace because of pregnancy. One woman told the commission that after revealing to her supervisor that she was pregnant, the supervisor said to her, “well, you will need to leave – this is very inconvenient for the organisation – you should have told us that you were planning this – have you considered (an) abortion?” When one applicant for a job revealed to her interviewer that she was pregnant, the job offer was withdrawn, but the woman was told that “if your circumstances change, give me a call.” A recruitment form from one company asked applicants for the job if they had stillbirths, pregnancies, or abortions, and whether their partners were sterilized or had hysterectomies. An employee who was fired said, “I was told … that if I terminated my pregnancy I could get my job back, so I did (but) I didn’t get my job back.”

A 2005 study by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health found that 38 per cent of the women contacted in 2004 who had abortions were worried that a baby would interfere with their jobs. In 1987, 50 per cent of respondents gave the same reason (the results were published in the 1988 journal, Family Planning Perspectives). Moreover, a study by led by Ted Jelen in the 2002 edition of the Sex Roles journal found that homemaker women’s attitudes were much more pro-life than those of employed women according to analysis of data from the General Social Survey from 1973 to 2000, which may be influenced by career track considerations.

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