Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Do you know? The Pregnancy Discrimination Act at 30

Do you know? The Pregnancy Discrimination Act turned 30 years old last week. The PDA outlawed employment discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” as unlawful sex discrimination. It does not require that employers give pregnant women preferential treatment (that, after all, would discriminate against men), but it does mandate that pregnant women be treated as would any employee with a similarly disabling temporary condition. Yet, despite being ingrained into our way of thinking that pregnancy discrimination is wrong, the number of claims filed with the EEOC continue to rise. In 2007, pregnancy discrimination filings with the EEOC hit an all-time high of 5,587 (source: Time Magazine).

According to a study published by the National Partnership for Women & Families, the number of claims might actually be higher, as women may under-report pregnancy discrimination out of fear of causing long-term career damage. Who knows if this conjecture is true. What is true, however, is that employees, regardless of gender, have the right to have a career and a family and not be punished for the choice. The sooner businesses recognize this undercurrent of potential bias the sooner they can put measures in place to prevent pregnancy discrimination from becoming a potential problem area.