New report from the UMass Amherst Center for Employment Equity Examines Claims of Pregnancy-Related Discrimination in Workplaces in the United States | News and Media Relations Office


AMHERST, Massachusetts – Following an analysis of the 26,656 pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and fair labor practices agencies Employment (FEPA) Between 2012 and 2016, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Employment Equity (CEE) published the most comprehensive examination of the issue of pregnancy-related discrimination in American history.

In their new report, “Discrimination in Pregnancy in the Workplace: An Analysis of Claims of Pregnancy-Related Discrimination,” published online on the EWC website, Carly McCann and Donald Tomaskovic-Devey detail their many findings on the positions in the workplace. which discriminatory women often find themselves, which industries and management dynamics are most often responsible for discriminatory actions, and what compensation – if any – women receive when they file complaints against such actions.

“Overall, our report highlights that pregnancy-related discrimination remains a persistent problem for many women in the workplace,” the researchers write. “Pregnancy-related discrimination is partly rooted in business practices and persistent cultural beliefs about women, and especially pregnant women. While there are legal structures in place to protect pregnant workers, it is important to determine whether these policies are doing enough. “

Researchers have found that pregnancy discrimination is a unique form of gender discrimination in the workplace because of its rapidity. When discriminatory employers learn that an employee is pregnant, she is often fired the same day.

As with other forms of employer discrimination, the majority of women who experience pregnancy-related discrimination in the workplace do not lay a formal charge of discrimination. While about 5,300 pregnancy discrimination charges are filed each year, researchers say that number represents only about 2% of all incidents of pregnancy discrimination.

Often, the accommodations sought and refused by pregnant women are minor; As survey data from the nonprofit Childbird Connection shows, 71% of women who said they needed housing just needed more frequent breaks, like extra bathroom breaks. However, based on the researchers’ surveys, around 250,000 women are denied such pregnancy-related accommodations each year, which they say is probably a conservative estimate given that around 36% of women who reported having need accommodation have not requested it from their employer.

Twenty-three percent of pregnancy discrimination accusations provide some monetary benefit to the accusing party, and 11% result in needed workplace change. Almost 9 in 10 pregnancy charges (89%) do not result in any necessary change in employer behavior or management practices. Only 8% of pregnancy discrimination accusations result in both a monetary benefit for the accusing party and a negotiated change in management practices in the workplace.

Overall, defendants who received monetary compensation for pregnancy charges received an average of $ 17,976, with a median award of only $ 8,000.

Researchers have found that the majority of pregnancy discrimination charges are filed in just a few industries – healthcare, retail, accommodation and food services – these are all industries with high levels. female employment and many low-paid employees. After taking into account the gender composition of industries, the rate of pregnancy-related discrimination is, however, higher in male-dominated sectors such as transportation and warehousing, wholesale trade, utilities and manufacturing. Male-dominated industries are less likely to employ a pregnant woman, but more likely to fire her when her pregnancy is known, the researchers conclude.

Workplaces also vary in terms of their gender composition and their risk of producing pregnancy-related discrimination. Researchers found that facilities accused of pregnancy-related discrimination tend to have a lower proportion of executives who are female.

“In general, more male executives are associated with more pregnancy-related discrimination,” they write. “So it seems that more women in management can guard against discrimination related to pregnancy.”

“The existing federal law – the Pregnancy Discrimination Act – does not provide adequate coverage for pregnant workers and leaves pregnant workers vulnerable at work,” the researchers conclude. In contrast, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), passed in 30 states but not yet at the federal level, could more directly address pregnancy-related discrimination. “PWFA laws provide significant benefits to pregnant workers without significant costs to workers or employers. The passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is an important first step in closing the legal coverage gap between the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the 2008 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. amendments to Americans with Disabilities for pregnant workers; and will expand the legal coverage available to pregnant women. discrimination.”

The full report, interactive data visualizations and more information about the Center for Employment Equity are available here.

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