It’s one thing to make the decision to stop working because you want to stay home and take care of your baby. Losing your job because of your pregnancy is another matter entirely. There are laws protecting women from this kind of discrimination, of course. The problem comes in proving that your pregnancy was the reason you were let go.
The Family Medical Leave Act, which was enacted in 1993, demands that employers allow you six weeks of maternity leave. For most, this means taking off a couple of weeks before the baby is born and four weeks after the baby is born. Unfortunately, that leave does not necessarily have to be paid leave.
Many American women return to work out of necessity. They simply can’t afford to spend more than a month without a paycheck. Many others return because positions may not be held for them if they take a longer leave of absence.
Doesn’t the Law Protect Pregnant Women from Discrimination?
The law is designed to protect pregnant women from discrimination. The problem comes in proving the discrimination. How can you prove you weren’t offered a promotion because of your pregnancy? How can you prove you weren’t offered to come back to teach for another year because your boss didn’t want to find a replacement for a month and a half?
It may be hard to believe, but many women have, in fact, lost jobs because of pregnancy. Stories abound:
- A woman was let go for excessive absences. Her reason for calling in sick repeatedly? Severe morning sickness.
- A woman was told her teaching services would not be needed next year. The apparent reason? She would need to take maternity leave in September, when the school year was starting.
- A pregnant bartender was fired because her boss felt she was no longer fun and sexy.
- In a shocking example of someone who should know better, a lawyer told a junior associate she would not be getting a raise because she was going on maternity leave soon.
Only One Way to Fix It
There’s unfortunately only one way to fix this problem. That’s to make sure, as often as possible, that those who discriminate against women for being pregnant are called on the carpet legally. Only after companies are made to pay for this will it stop. Unfortunately, many pregnant women don’t want the added stress of a lawsuit.
What would you do if you found out you were being let go or passed up for promotion because of being pregnant? Would you fight it?