Discrimination Still A Barrier For Pregnant Workers

By Paul Muschick
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

I initially didn’t pay much attention to the recent announcement that a Berks County trucking company had discriminated against an employee because she was pregnant.

I found it sad but considered it an anomaly. I hadn’t seen other recent examples. Surely most businesses today know they can’t treat a pregnant worker differently from any other worker, I thought.

Then that same day, the state Human Relations Commission ruled two other businesses, one in Lehigh County and the other near Lansdale, had discriminated against pregnant workers, too.

This is the 21st century — how can this still be happening?

While those three cases announced Feb. 26 were the first time in more than five years that the state publicly ordered a business to compensate a pregnant worker for discrimination, they show that despite the milestones in women’s rights, pregnant women still encounter discrimination.

Surprisingly, federal authorities receive thousands of complaints annually about pregnancy discrimination and the state receives dozens. The public just doesn’t hear about them because many are settled confidentially, and the investigations are confidential as well.

“People do assume that times have changed and that people behave well,” said Shannon Powers, spokeswoman for the Human Relations Commission. “That’s simply not the experience of a lot of people in the workplace.”

Just last week, a Virginia business agreed to pay $20,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a woman who was offered a job, then the business rescinded the offer after learning she had recently given birth and had surgery related to her pregnancy.

“No woman should be denied a job because of her pregnancy or because she recently gave birth,” Debra Lawrence, an attorney at the EEOC’s office in Philadelphia, said in a statement on that case.

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