Pregnancy Discrimination and Its Economic Impact on Women

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that pregnancy discrimination cases increased by 30 percent from 1992 to 2005 as economic constraints are forcing more pregnant women to continue working.

With the rising number of complaints, the agency believes that discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and other related medical condition is probably the biggest problem in the US employment, even outpacing gender discrimination and sexual harassment in terms of reported cases.

Economic Ramifications to Women

Women accounted for nearly 47 percent of labor force and the Department of Labor predicted that their number will continue to grow in the next few years.

With this finding, pregnancy discrimination should be immediately addressed since this can affect millions of women who are in child-bearing age, according to occupational experts. Furthermore, employment lawyers believe that pregnancy discrimination has economic ramifications to women especially when their employers postpone their promotion, or worse, terminate them.

Employer's Perspective

In recent years, the slow economic growth has forced many employers to layoff workers as part of their cost-cutting measure. Moreover, some companies see pregnant women—with their fringe benefits, pending maternity leave, and certain work accommodations—as liabilities.

However, some lawyers point out that employers have some valid concerns. Small-scale businesses can suffer when a large number of workers file for maternity leave, thus affecting productivity.

Many employers also have stereotypes about pregnant women such as being irrational and over emotional and less competent in the workplace. Unfortunately, this view is also held by female co-workers.

The work environment is usually not accommodating to pregnant women. This finding is supported by the Journal of Business and Psychology which conducted a study in 1997 that showed more than half of women got negative reactions after telling their supervisors about their pregnancies.

The Rights of Pregnant Women

In hiring process, the EEOC said that employers cannot turn down an applicant based on her pregnancy and condition.

The agency also requires employers to give pregnant women the same length of absence given to disabled workers. Expecting mothers should also enjoy pregnancy and maternity leave.

If employers provide fringe benefits for medical related conditions, pregnant women, even those who are not married, should as well receive these. Also, if companies provide benefits to workers who are on leave, this monetary assistance should also be given to expecting mothers.

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