Throughout America, families have increasingly come to rely on income earned by women for their economic survival. Employment opportunity, equity, non-discrimination, and the availability of affordable child care and paid leave are more important than ever, but they remain elusive for low-wage workers, a majority of whom are women.
Pregnancy Discrimination: Balancing pregnancy and employment responsibilities is a reality for the vast majority of these women as 85% of women become pregnant at some point during their working lives. Yet, pregnancy remains a serious obstacle to women’s ability to maintain and succeed in employment, particularly in low-wage jobs.
Currently, pregnancy discrimination remains common, employer accommodations for pregnant workers are altogether absent or significantly limited, and women increasingly want or need to work through pregnancy. Despite changing gender roles, the majority of family caregivers in the United States today are still women. While women at all socioeconomic levels are hard-pressed to balance work and pregnancy, the challenge is particularly onerous for women in low-wage jobs, most of whom do not have paid or unpaid leave, flexible hours, or health benefits.
In the 30 years since the passage Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, pregnancy discrimination is on the rise. Women with less education and low wages leave their jobs or are fired after the birth of their first child at a much higher rate than other workers. Legal protections remain woefully inadequate, as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is extremely limited in the scope of protections that it provides.
Legal Momentum is working to expand legal protections for pregnant women under current law by focusing on two theories of legal protection for pregnant women at work:
Paid Leave: Because women remain the primary caregivers for their families and children, and single women are much more likely to be custodial parents than single men, paid leave is a critical issue for women workers. The industries which employ the most women, however, such as retail, hospitality, and other minimum- and low-wage jobs, are the least likely to provide workers with paid sick leave, vacation, or medical benefits. This commonly creates situations wherein women are forced to choose between taking care of a sick child, or themselves, or sacrificing a day’s worth of wages. Legal Momentum advocates with partner organizations to make paid family and medical leave available for all working families.