It’s no surprise that pregnant people struggle to continue to work in the US. However, the extent of that struggle isn’t always obvious before someone becomes pregnant themselves. According to a recent survey by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), one in every five working mothers reports experiencing discrimination in the workplace because of their pregnancy.
The survey, performed in February 2022, was focused on self-reported experiences of discrimination among pregnant people. It covered the experiences and concerns of pregnant working people and their partners before and during their pregnancies. From its sample of 2200 adults, the BPC identified several concerning trends regarding pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
According to the survey result, pregnant people may be more likely to experience discriminatory behavior at work now than they were a few decades ago. An alternate interpretation of the data may be that expectant parents are more likely to notice this behavior than they were in the past.
Either way, the BPC’s survey highlights the continued struggles facing prospective parents in the workforce. Below, we break down the most concerning statistics highlighted in the BPC report, why discrimination against pregnant workers may be rising, and methods of preventing or fighting against it.
Concerning Statistics Regarding Workplace Pregnancy Discrimination
The BPC’s survey was performed to determine the extent of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace and the groups who struggle with it most. The results were discouraging: 20% of all people who self-identified as mothers reported that they had experienced this discrimination firsthand.
8% of all women and 10% of currently employed women had experienced the same. Contrary to expectations, though, self-reported experiences of pregnancy discrimination increased as the age of respondents decreased. 13% of Millennial women reported facing discriminatory behavior because they were pregnant, while only 9% of Gen X and 5% of Baby Boomers reported the same. However
The survey also asked several other questions:
- 12% of all adults and 20% of parents have witnessed workplace discrimination against pregnant people.
- 21% of mothers report being scared to tell their employers about a pregnancy due to fears of discrimination or retaliation.
- Only 4% of all Baby Boomer women report being afraid to tell their employers about a pregnancy, while 15% of Millennial women have been.
- 23% of fathers report that their partners were discriminated against at work for being pregnant.
One survey is not enough to prove that pregnancy discrimination is rising. However, analyses of federal court dockets have highlighted that claims regarding discriminatory actions against pregnant people are on the rise. Even if actual discriminatory and retaliatory actions aren’t increasing, it’s clear that awareness of the problem is.
Why Pregnancy Discrimination Is Becoming More Visible
It seems unlikely that discrimination against pregnant people is increasing as dramatically as the BPC study suggests. After all, laws like the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provide workers with legal protections if employers attempt to fire, demote, cut pay, or cut hours because they are pregnant. Furthermore, some employers have begun offering pregnant employers additional parental leave and other benefits to retain talent. So why are more people reporting seeing or experiencing it?
The answer may be twofold. First, social expectations have changed for the better. Thirty or forty years ago, when most Baby Boomers first had children, it was still heavily engrained in the culture that women left the workforce when they had kids. Women who worked during this time may not have noticed discrimination or feared telling their employer because they knew they would leave after getting pregnant.
That’s no longer the case today. The federal Department of Labor (DOL) reported in 2018 that 62.0% of mothers with children under 3 work. While this is still significantly lower than the participation rate of fathers, it is nearly double the rate in 1975, when only 34.3% of mothers with young kids worked. As people stay in the workforce during and after pregnancies more frequently, they are less likely to accept discriminatory behavior from their employers.
The other cause is visibility. As more people remain employed after becoming pregnant, opportunities to experience discrimination rise. It seems likely that the likelihood of experiencing discriminatory behavior may be stable or even falling, but more potential victims are willing to speak out and hold their employers accountable.
Taking a Stand Against Unfair Treatment of Pregnant Workers
The last thing a prospective parent needs is the stress of their employer discriminating against them for starting a family. People who face discriminatory or retaliatory behavior at work because they are pregnant can stand up for their rights to fair employment.
- Know your rights. California has some of the best protections for pregnant workers in the country. Know your rights so you can spot when they’re being violated.
- Document the problems you face. If you encounter issues like having requests for accommodations denied, your hours cut, or otherwise being penalized for your pregnancy, carefully document each incident. Save communications, old work schedules or pay stubs, and employee reviews to demonstrate that the behavior is discriminatory and not based on your performance.
- File an official complaint. If your employer has an HR department, it may be worthwhile to submit an official complaint to start a paper trail within the organization.
- Consult with a skilled pregnancy discrimination attorney. If you are concerned about your job should you file a complaint, or if your employer has disregarded your concerns, it’s time to talk to a lawyer about legal action.
At Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP, our attorneys are dedicated to helping California workers with families. We have decades of experience representing employees who have suffered from pregnancy discrimination around the state. We are available to help you take a stand against your employer’s unjust treatment of pregnant workers. Learn more about how we can protect your rights by scheduling your consultation today.