Although it's illegal to discriminate based on pregnancy, there are still many cases of women fired or not hired for positions because of...

Share story

Although it’s illegal to discriminate based on pregnancy, there are still many cases of women fired or not hired for positions because of pending motherhood.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 4,649 charges of pregnancy-based discrimination in fiscal 2003. It resolved 4,847 charges and recovered $12.4 million for the charging parties that year.

“For highly skilled women, it is changing,” said Jodi Grant, director of work and family programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families, formerly the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. “But for a lot of women, there is still discrimination out there.”

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows an annual 12 weeks of unpaid leave for workers at an employer of 50 or more people for at least a year.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Many women have no leave time when they start a new job. Some who are pregnant and job searching find it necessary to reveal a pregnancy so that maternity leave can be negotiated along with salary and benefits.

Such was the case with Jennifer Sweeney when a friend she had worked with at an organization for working women called her about a job opening as a lobbyist.

Sweeney decided to wait until she was offered a job, then tell the organization she needed maternity leave. If it accepted that, great. If not, she would stay at her current position.

When Sweeney was offered the job, she explained her situation to the chief executive and suggested six weeks of leave. The CEO, a parent himself, told her she’d need at least that much time to recover.

He was right. Sweeney took 12 weeks, working 10 hours a week from home during the final six weeks of leave.