The enactment of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act occurred 40 years ago, yet today, employers continue to force pregnant and parenting workers off the job. Recently, a new taboo has emerged as an additional feature of the problem known as the “pregnancy penalty.” Discrimination in the hiring process can impact young women of child-bearing age, regardless of them being, or planning to become, pregnant.
When Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, it made it illegal for employers to fire women for being pregnant, or treating them worse than other workers who are also temporarily unable to perform some aspects of a job. They probably never fathomed the concept of discriminating against women who “might” become pregnant.
Federal and state laws designed to protect pregnant women from being unjustly fired are rife with loopholes and exemptions that are all too often abused. Employers come up with legal reasons for firing the pregnant workers such as deeming them undependable, claiming the employee quit because they were not willing to accept a demotion, or merely stating it was due to a “necessary business decision.”
PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION CAN HAVE A LIFETIME FINANCIAL IMPACT
Women forced out of the workplace or demoted due to pregnancy lose income and benefits that could impact them financially for a lifetime. Retirement, Social Security, and other insurance benefits depend on earnings over a person’s years of employment. This cycle also contributes to the gender wage gap between men and women. This inequality of pay between the sexes was a high-profile issue during the 2016 presidential campaign, but recently has slipped into the shadows of all the recent political hype.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) issued its Spring 2018 Edition of The Simple Truth About The Gender Pay Gap, showing that in 2016 the median annual earnings in the U.S for women working full time, year-round was $41,554. It was $51,640 for men.
THE WAGE GAP BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN
Women typically earned 80% of what men did – a 20% gap. States with the lowest disparities of earnings are New York (11%), California (12%), and Florida (13%). Those struggling with the highest difference in pay are Louisiana and Utah (30%), West Virginia (28%), and Montana (27%). This report is regularly updated with the most current information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.
The gap has narrowed almost 10% since 2000, mainly due to more women seeking higher education, more women entering the workforce, and men’s rates rising at a slower pace. However, it is moving at what many consider “a snail’s speed.” At the current pace, it could take until 2119 before women have pay equity with men.
PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION IS RAMPANT
Many experts believe pregnancy discrimination is much more rampant than the statistics show because fighting back is very difficult and deemed not to be worth the public humiliation or the financial pang of dealing with a lawsuit. Of those who are not fired, many choose not to make waves, and so accept the demotion or opt to leave voluntarily. Either way, it is a backward slide in their career progression and movement along the pay scale.
The strong economy may by be a silver lining. The addition of hundreds of thousands of jobs each month may result in a decrease of discrimination against women who are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are merely of childbearing age. As the number of jobs increase and the job market becomes more competitive, employers may be forced to focus on candidate’s qualifications and nothing else.