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Friday, January 14, 2005

Changing perceptions

It will be very challenging to change society's perception of women, pregnancy, and maternity leave, if women themselves feel uncomfortable with their legal right to interview and accept a job while pregnant.

I am not trying to be unsympathetic towards businesses that are trying to fill job vacancies, only to be faced with a vacancy when a new hire goes on maternity leave or paternity leave. I do not run a business nor do I claim to know what that frustration is like. But employment laws exist for a reason. And women are already often at a disadvantage in the workforce, earning just 77 cents for every dollar men received in 2002, even when we have similar education, skills and experience, according to the AFL-CIO.

As Anonomous said, if a position has certain requirements, such as the need to be able to lift 25 pounds or be on-site for the first six months of employment, then an employer could choose not hire a pregnant woman. That is only because the woman does not meet the job requirements. That is like not hiring a reporter because he or she cannot type. It is not illegal; it is not discrimination. The person does not have the right skill-set for the job. On the flip side, a woman would need to disclose that she could not do those things during the hiring process.

That said, if a job really does not require lifting or being on-site, and the employer on said those things because he suspected the woman was pregnant, the employer is asking for a lawsuit. Pregnancy discrimination claims have jumped 40% from 1992 to 2003, even though the nation's birthrate fell by nine percent during that same period, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Shying away from jobs, disclosing unnecessary personal information, or feeling deceptive because you are exercising your rights will likely make discrimination toward woman more prevalent and socially acceptable.

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