It’s been over 40 years since the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which outlawed discrimination against pregnant women, employees who may become pregnant, or prospective employees who may become pregnant. However, 41 years later women still contend with outright discrimination in the workplace – whether it’s bias against working mothers, disparate pay, the lack of reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing workers, or the advancement penalties women suffer when we actually take maternal leave or time off to raise families. It is rampant in corporate America: some employers deny expecting mothers promotions or pay raises, while others deny them leave and other reasonable accommodations and then fire them shortly after giving birth. As for women who work in physically demanding jobs, pregnancy discrimination can be life-threatening.
With this backdrop, where my potential maternity faces barrier after punitive barrier and I’m constantly forced to consider whether I want economic security or a healthy pregnancy, I don’t want to – I can’t – get pregnant.
I met my boyfriend almost seven years ago and he’s one of my best friends – we are partners and co-conspirators in life. We’ve planned for our shared future, which will include a mortgage, shared investments, and oath-swearing before family and God that we are in it to win it together. Though one of his deepest desires is to have kids and some part of me shares that desire, I cannot in good faith commit to having children when I know that it damns me medically, financially, and professionally.
That might sound selfish to some, but how in the world can I provide for my future child’s best life if I’m destined to be less than? Typically, working mothers are paid only 69 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, which translates to a loss of $18,000 annually – a gap that exists for mothers at every level of education. Pregnant and parenting women struggle against rampant anti-mom bias in workplaces where they’re told “I don’t want to work with you” or “You focus too much on your kids” as “justifications” for why they didn’t get the promotion, the raise, the new client, or even the job offer. (By the way, this is illegal.)
Thanks to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, I know that an employer should not be able to discriminate against me – or the millions like me – because of pregnancy or my ability to become pregnant. However, because sex discrimination is a deeply embedded structural issue our society continues to work toward dismantling, it’s unclear how far the protections against pregnancy discrimination go as well as what constitutes pregnancy discrimination (i.e. refusing to hire me based on pregnancy or refusing to allow me a bathroom break while I’m pregnant and the growing fetus instead of me plays drums with my bladder and surrounding organs). That’s why we need the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The PWFA is a commonsense solution that would strengthen protections against pregnancy discrimination and ensure workers have access to temporary accommodations in the workplace.
So now let’s tell Congress to take one critical step forward in advancing protections for pregnant and parenting women. Join me in demanding Congress support this crucial legislation for the safety and protection of pregnant workers around the country.
 The answer is BOTH. Check out our Pregnant At Work? Know Your Rights fact sheet at https://nwlc.org/resources/pregnant-at-work-know-your-rights/