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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Episode 29 (Epilogue): Motherhood and the Workplace

Tonight, we discussed pregnancy and motherhood in the workplace with Sonia Pressman Fuentes, co-founder of the National Organization for Women; Kevin Sanderson, Sarasota employment attorney; and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO of

The Collective relied heavily on the following resources to prepare for tonight's Conversation.

Maternity Leave in the United States (or lack thereof):
  • Having a baby is a leading cause of "poverty spells" in the U.S. -- when income dips below what's needed for basic living expenses.
  • In the U.S., 49% of mothers cobble together paid leave following childbirth by using sick days, vacation days, disability leave, and maternity leave.
  • 51% of new mothers lack any paid leave -- so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs.
  • The U.S is one of only 4 countries that doesn't offer paid leave to new mothers -- the others are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho.
  • Paid family leave has been shown to reduce infant mortality by as much as 20% (and the U.S. ranks a low 37th of all countries in infant mortality).
  • Four out of fifty states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Washington, and Wisconsin) have laws guaranteeing the flexible use of accrued paid sick or other leave days to care for a new child.

The Motherhood Penalty:
Source: Getting a job: Is there a motherhood penalty? by SJ Correll
  • Mothers experience disadvantages in the workplace in addition to those commonly associated with gender.
  • 2/3 of employed mothers suffer a per child wage penalty of approx. 5%
  • for those under age 35, the pay gap between mothers and non-mothers is larger than the pay gap between men and women
  • Mothers are more often evaluated as less competent than non-mothers
  • Visibly pregnant managers are often evaluated as less committed and dependable, more emotional and irrational than equal female managers who are not visibly pregnant

Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978:
Source: EEOC
  • Federal law that protects women who are pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions from being treated differently from other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The application of Title VII is generally limited to employers, including state and local governments, with 15 or more employees (including part-time and temporary workers).
  • Hiring: An employer may not refuse to hire a pregnant woman because she is pregnant or has a pregnancy-related condition, or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers.
  • Pregnancy and Maternity Leave: An employer may not require pregnant employees to submit to special procedures in order to determine their ability to work. If an employer has a policy that is applicable to all employees, however, it need not exclude pregnant women from the required procedure. For instance, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work prior to granting leave, it may also require pregnant employees to submit such statements. Likewise, an employer must treat pregnant employees who cannot perform their job due to a pregnancy-related condition the same way it treats temporarily disabled employees.
  • Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. In addition, an employer may not prohibit a woman from returning to work after giving birth.
  • Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence for the same length of time positions are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.
  • Health Insurance: Any employer-provided health insurance plan must treat pregnancy-related conditions the same as other medical conditions. Further, pregnant employees cannot be required to pay a larger health insurance deductible than other employees pay.
  • Other Benefits: If an employer provides any benefits to employees on leave, the employer must offer the same benefits for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions, including vacation, pay increases, temporary disability benefits, and calculation of seniority.
  • According to the EEOC, pregnancy discrimination is one of the fastest growing forms of discrimination in the workplace. According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2008, women comprised 46.5 % of the total U.S. Labor force and are projected to account for 49% of the increase in the total labor force growth between 2006 and 2016. In 2006, the EEOC handled 6,196 pregnancy discrimination claims with eventual monetary pay-outs that totaled $16.8 million.

The Family Medical Leave Act:
Source: Thomson Reuters
  • The FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the workplace.
  • The FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in any 12-month period for the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Eligible employees must work at least 25 hours a week and have worked for the current employer for at least one year.
  • New fathers who are eligible employees are also entitled to FMLA leave. If the same company employs both new parents, however, the spouses will only be entitled to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave.

Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act :
  • Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("PPACA", aka “Health Care Reform”, aka “Obamacare”), signed into law on March 23, 2010, amends Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to make accommodations for nursing mothers during the one year following a child's birth.
  • Specifically, employers are required to provide nursing employees with: (1) reasonable break time to express breast milk each time such need arises; and (2) a space for pumping breast milk "other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public."
  • The new provision does not quantify what is a reasonable length of time for a nursing-mother break, but employers are not required to compensate an employee for the break time.
  • There is a small employer exception for employers of less than 50 individuals. Such employers are not subject to the requirements of Section 4207 if it would impose an undue hardship in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer's business.
Source: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
  • Mothers who return to work at 16 weeks postpartum or later typically nurse longer than those who return sooner perhaps because milk supplies are established and motherbaby pairs have sufficient experience/practice.
  • Women who are able to express milk regularly at work (typically every 3 hours but at least every time their baby would normally nurse) nursed longer than those who are unable.
  • 82-percent of mothers surveyed said they would again choose to combine breastfeeding and working; only 18-percent said they would choose nursing over work by giving up work entirely, delaying their re-entry to the workforce or reducing their work hours.

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