Pregnant Employees: Fight On.
In the centuries since the Industrial Revolution, there has been only a short time that the effect of pregnant employees on the workplace has come to the notice of employees, employers, and political authorities. As recently as 1976, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in General Electric Co. vs Gilbert, et.al. that the exclusion of pregnancy from a disability plan was not an act of discrimination against women. The resulting outcry resulted in the enactment of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. Since then, discrimination against women in the workplace has gradually declined.
Pregnancy discrimination takes place when pregnant employees are treated differently than other employees. Before the Enactment of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, it was not uncommon for an employer to include questions about possible future pregnancy plans at the interview. These questions, of course, would only be addressed to female interviewees as women were the only candidates subject to the condition. Suddenly, such questions became an act of discrimination. Before 1978, women employees felt the need to hide their pregnancy to keep their jobs as long as possible; after 1978, women no longer felt the need to hide their condition.
It took a while for women to realize the freedoms guaranteed by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It took a new generation of women entering the job market, a generation that knew their value and understood the new laws that protected their reproductive rights in the workplace, to finally assure the enforcement of the 1978 Act. Employers were shocked by the change in business environment when they discovered they could no longer rid themselves of pregnant employees. The assumptions of the past would not work in the present and a new series of policies were developed to ensure business morale and productivity.
To many who were established in the workplace, the change came grudgingly. Reports of fellow-employees showing resentment and discontent over the fear of a greater workload due to a group member’s pregnancy ran rampant through study after study. New studies were authorized by disgruntled employers again and again throughout the 1980s and 1990s. These studies only served to reveal the social conflicts inherent in the business system. Fellow-employees acknowledged the importance of children but felt that a teammate’s pregnancy impacted them more than the pregnancy impacted the teammate. Resentment came in large packages with looks and utterances and outright objections voiced in the work group.
It was not until the 2000s that employers found some reasonable answers. Training sessions specifically designed to impress on fellow-employees the importance of mutual support within the team for pregnant employees were mandated by many large employers. The success of these type programs led to some States taking action in the form of new laws to protect pregnant employees, mandating such training sessions to all employees of businesses with more than fifteen employees. Businesses also began a program of employee engagement ideas where employees were encouraged to ask the tough questions around the laws and the moral and ethical standards expected for the protection of pregnant employees. Indeed, new businesses found a niche in advising corporations about the rights of pregnant employees and developed programs around the concept of employee engagement ideas that concentrated of all employee’s rights.
According to O.C. Tanner, “research on the effects of having children on one’s career indicated that men who took on non-traditional roles in raising their children were treated poorly in the workplace.
Still, there are some pregnant employees that experience harassment and discrimination at work due to their condition. Though such actions are unlawful, the looks of accusation and the murmurs of derision still exist. From the beginning, in 1978, politicians and sociologists knew and understood that the Pregnancy Protection Act would require a vast social change to become effective. The evidence of increased lawsuits and complaints by aware pregnant employees or their teammates shows that the fight goes on. However, each battle brings an uptick in the status of pregnant employees in the workplace.