The study was announced to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which was enacted on
The volume of complaints about pregnancy discrimination has risen dramatically. The National Partnership for Women & Families reviewed pregnancy discrimination case records of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and found that 65% more complaints were filed in 2007 than in 1992. The jump in allegations is not linked to women moving into male-dominated industries or jobs. More than half of the claims came from industries where working women are very well represented: service, retail, financial services, and insurance. The report even describes a case against a maternity wear retailer.
The tough economy will inevitably cause an increase in claims of all kinds of discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. Job losses or cuts in hours spur some people to look for hidden reasons behind these decisions. Employment decisions should never be influenced by pregnancy even if the connection is indirect.
The public records of the EEOC include surprising cases where employers thought that pregnant employees are less capable. There was nothing subtle about the company owner that reduced the pay of a woman when he found out she was pregnant and made derogatory comments in front of other employees and customers including, “Since you went and got knocked up, you’ve been nothing but lazy.” The settlement for this claim included a substantial monetary payment to the affected employees and requirements for extensive training and counseling.
As an HR Director I made certain that the sales executive was fair when two pregnant sales people were not meeting their goals. The underperformance was not ignored and the performance improvement plan was no different than any other sales person with similar poor results. If you have a question about how to apply standards consistently seek advice from Human Resources or an employment attorney.
Training all members of a management team is essential to create a work environment free from discrimination and harassment and prevent claims. It takes a lot less time to communicate a well crafted anti-discrimination policy and hold training sessions than responding to a claim brought to a state, local or federal agency. It is also less expensive, and much less aggravating. If you can’t schedule training before the end of this year make it a priority for the first quarter of 2009. Take steps now to make certain that your company does not become an EEOC statistic.