Press Release
As Pregnancy Discrimination Act Turns 38, New Analysis Shows Unlawful Treatment of Women in the Workplace Remains Widespread

Tens of thousands of women throughout the United States continue to experience pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, according to a new analysis. The National Partnership for Women & Families conducted the study using the most recent data available from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It finds that, between October 2010 and September 2015, nearly 31,000 charges of pregnancy discrimination were filed with the EEOC and state-level agencies, and the number of charges remained relatively unchanged from year to year. The analysis is being released today, on the 38th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

“Nearly four decades after we banned pregnancy discrimination in this country, it is shameful that women are still being fired, forced out of their jobs, and denied employment and promotion opportunities because they become pregnant,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership, which helped lead the coalition that won passage of the PDA. “And it is deeply disappointing that we do not see a significant reduction in the number of charges filed from year to year. These new findings confirm what too many women know to be true, and they are especially striking when you consider how many instances of discrimination go unidentified and unreported. It’s clear that more needs to be done to protect pregnant workers and to fully realize the promise of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.”

According to the EEOC data, the most common reason women filed a charge of pregnancy discrimination during the nearly five-year time period studied was because they believed they were discharged from employment for becoming pregnant; nearly one-third of the charges fall into this category. The next most common reasons for filing a charge were discriminatory terms and conditions of employment, harassment and disciplinary action. Other key findings of the National Partnership’s analysis, which incorporated recent demographic data on women’s labor force participation, include:

  • Women in every industry report pregnancy discrimination, including the industries that employ the most workers overall and the industries with the highest share of female workers, such as health care and social assistance and educational services.
  • Women report pregnancy discrimination across races and ethnicities, but black women are most affected. More than 28 percent of pregnancy discrimination charges were filed by black women, yet they comprise only 14 percent of women in the workforce ages 16 to 54.
  • Women in all 50 states and the District of Columbia filed charges of pregnancy discrimination during the period analyzed. The 10 jurisdictions with the highest share of charges relative to the number of women in the workforce span every region of the country.
  • Pregnant women report they were denied reasonable workplace accommodations they needed to continue working, such as taking more bathroom breaks or carrying a water bottle. From October 2014 to September 2015 alone, more than 650 charges of this type of discrimination were filed.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which is currently before Congress, would make clear that employers must provide the same workplace protections for women with pregnancy-related limitations as they do for workers with similar limitations, including minor job modifications. The bill has 31 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate and 150 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, with bipartisan support in both chambers. Eighteen states, the District of Columbia and four cities have passed similar laws. And polling shows more than 90 percent of voters favor a policy to protect pregnant workers.

“When members of Congress return to work later this year, they have a chance to show America’s women and families that progress on the policies they care about is possible,” continued Ness. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a reasonable, common sense, bipartisan proposal that would strengthen workplace protections for pregnant workers by helping ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women who want to continue working. There is no reason Congress cannot pass it this year, and the country would be better off as a result.”

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About the National Partnership for Women & Families

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family.

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