Halloween … and Pregnancy?October 30, 2008
Tomorrow is not only my favorite holiday (I love candy and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”) but also the 30th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). In commemoration, this week AAUW issued a press release and launched a new PDA section of the Legal Advocacy Fund’s Online Resource Library. We also signed on to an amicus brief in the case AT&T v. Hulteen, which will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in December and addresses pregnancy discrimination.
Yesterday I attended a symposium on pregnancy discrimination, presented by one of AAUW’s partners, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Speakers and panelists discussed the history of the PDA, recent trends, and related issues on the horizon. While I knew prior to the symposium that pregnancy discrimination still occurs, I was surprised to hear several panelists discuss studies or trends at their organizations showing an increase in the number of pregnancy discrimination cases, particularly among women of color. For example, in their most recent report the National Partnership for Women & Families found that
- the number of pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the EEOC in 2007 was 65 percent higher than the number filed in 1992, and
- between 1996 and 2007, pregnancy discrimination claims filed by women of color rose 76 percent, while overall pregnancy discrimination claims rose 25 percent.
Several panelists discussed the need for nationwide campaigns to educate employers about the rights of pregnant employees. Two panelists discussed complications regarding the legal treatment of pregnant women (special treatment versus treating them like every other worker) and discussed ideas for improving how they are treated under the law. Others talked about the need for better leave policies in general as more women and men struggle to balance various caretaking roles in their family with their work obligations, including around the birth of a child.
EEOC Chair Naomi Earp noted that the October 31 date for the PDA anniversary was appropriate because the current data and trends are scary, and I agree! However, I am hopeful that through the efforts of organizations like the National Partnership for Women & Families, the National Women’s Law Center, the EEOC, various employment justice organizations, and AAUW, we can work to turn that around.
Visit the LAF library for information about recent pregnancy discrimination cases and what to do if you think your rights have been violated. The next issue of LAF Update will discuss pregnancy discrimination trends and outlook in more detail.