That Career-Killing Culture of Life

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A record 4,901 pregnancy discrimination complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2006. Medical News Today reports:

The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday examined pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, which some federal officials say is not uncommon. There were 4,901 pregnancy discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state and local fair employment practices agencies during fiscal year 2006, a 23% increase from the number of complaints filed in 1997. The most common complaints include not being hired, unlawful demotions and firing, EEOC consultants said. The increase in complaints “reflects both cultural shifts and old-fashioned notions that still exist in the workplace,” according to consultants, the Sun reports. The number of complaints might not accurately reflect the magnitude of the issue because many women see filing a complaint and pursing litigation as a “career killer,” EEOC spokesperson David Grinberg said. Women’s participation in the labor force has increased in the last several decades, reaching 60% in 2005, according to Department of Labor data. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which applies to employers with a staff of 15 or more, requires employers to address pregnancy as they would a temporary illness or medical condition. Employers should not ask job candidates if they are pregnant or plan to have children, and employee candidates are not required to inform employers if they are pregnant, workplace consultants and attorneys said. Consultants recommend that workers inform employers of their pregnancy as soon as possible so the company can make staffing arrangements, the Sun reports. According to Jocelyn Frye, a general counsel for the National Partnership for Women and Families, companies must specifically address pregnancy discrimination in addition sexual harassment and sex discrimination. “Women should never be forced to choose between motherhood and their livelihood,” Grinberg said, adding, “Employers should be sensitive to this issue” (Cho, Baltimore Sun, 3/28).

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