Despite the Pregnancy Discrimination Act being passed in 1978 and the Florida Supreme Court holding that the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 includes protection from pregnancy discrimination, women of childbearing age still have to face major hurdles in the workplace. Women find themselves wondering whether they will be able to find a job when they are pregnant or if their potential employer believes they may become pregnant. Many women are passed over for promotions either due to intentional stereotypes about a woman's ability or desire to work hard after having a child, or subconscious beliefs that women won't be able to pull their weight at the office once they have children. Truthfully, many women find themselves spread thin and riddled with guilt--compelled to give 100% to their families while also giving 100% to their careers.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides that covered employers (those with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius) must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to covered employees due to the birth or adoption of a child. This is a summary of the law, but the key point is this: even if you are a covered employee working for a covered employer, you may be entitled to 12 weeks of leave, but that leave is unpaid. That is, unless the employer voluntarily chooses to pay for the leave time or allows employees to substitute out sick or vacation time for FMLA leave. For many women, taking 12 weeks off to bond and care for their newborn is highly desireable, but simply unattainable. In a nation where the vast majority of families live paycheck-to-pacheck, 12 weeks without pay is just not an option.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again--we claim to be a nation that supports "family values." But when it comes time to back those values up with money and programs to support mothers and fathers, we fall woefully short. Mothers either lose their jobs, return to work mere days after giving birth to keep their jobs, or go weeks without pay, only to return to jobs where they will forevermore earn less than their male counterparts because they missed out on key stepping stones to promotions. Fathers who want to take time to bond with their babies also lose out on pay and benefits during leave, and may even suffer from stigma and ridicule from co-workers and management. As a society, we should be coming together to encourage men to be active fathers and providing support for mothers who are healing physically while caring for one or more newborns.
And, employers, you are missing out, too. Parents of young children can be huge assets to companies, using their mutitasking skills to bring fresh perspective to the workplace. And, let's not forget, just because somebody has had a baby, that does not mean that all of their education, training, and experience has evaporated. Flexible work schedules and supportive paid time off policies may not be mandatory, but such programs may save companies more money in the long run, since the companies will not have to hire and train new employees to fill the roles of departed parents.
If you believe you have been discriminated against because of a pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition, use our website to set up a phone consultation. Meanwhile, you can check out this article which gives some interesting information on declining birthrates in the U.S. and employment law.