Many women face pregnancy-based discrimination in the workforce - KMOV.com

Many women face pregnancy-based discrimination in the workforce

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A pregnant woman at work. Credit: KMOV A pregnant woman at work. Credit: KMOV

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) - Being a parent; it’s one of the greatest joys in life.

But at work, many women still face discrimination or harassment, simply for getting pregnant.

Nicole Galloway, Missouri’s State Auditor, took over in troubled times, appointed mid-term after former state auditor Tom Schweich committed suicide. But the former Boone County Treasurer took to the task with a gusto not often seen in government.

Other women have come before her, but she's breaking one barrier: “I am the first statewide official to be pregnant and have a baby while in office,” she said.

Into her third trimester, you would think the trek several blocks between the capitol and her staff's offices would be the tough part. Instead, it's the off-hand and inappropriate remarks of others.

“Those kinds of comments caught me off guard, because I wasn't expecting that,” Galloway said.

The curious comments, she doesn't mind so much. But Galloway says she's noticed a lot of negativity, too.

“Someone did ask me if I was going to resign from my job when having a job,” she said. She’s noticed big doubts about her ability to be both a mom *and* run a busy office. Somebody did suggest that her husband should buy me a pet or a dog instead of having another baby.

She wonders, if they'll say it to her: “What are you saying to your coworkers or other females you work with, that's concerning to me,” she said.

“It can bother me, it can be hurtful, but I think I am not unique in this.” What's happening, he admits, is less serious than what other women, like Jane, go through. "I never thought this would happen to me," said "Jane."

“Jane” asked to be anonymous, concerned about retaliation for speaking out. Jane says, at six months pregnant, her company told her to pack up.
“You really believe that it was because of your pregnancy that you were let go?” asked Reporter Lauren Trager.

“Yes,” Jane said. “It put our family in a bind. It put stress on our marriage,” she said. She says she's never had a bad review.
In years past, the company had even hired her back, after she quit for a time.

But this time, she says she was let go when others, with less seniority but higher pay, were not. It could be pregnancy-based discrimination.
We spoke with an expert who says “Jane” is far from the only one who's experienced it.

“Women are still facing pregnancy discrimination in 2016,” said Emily Martin, with the National Women's Law Center.  In fact, numbers we gathered from the Missouri Department of Labor show complaints have been on the rise: 17 in 2015, 11 in 2014 and 6 in 2013.

The numbers, though, are low because pregnancy discrimination, experts say, is severely under-reported.

“There are rights and remedies available to you if you're facing this barrier at work,” Martin said.  

“Jane’s” attorney, Jessica Scales, is now preparing to sue.

“Here in the state of Missouri, we have pretty strong laws that protect employees, so our goal is to make sure employers are following them,” Scales said. “I want people to know that it could happen to anybody,” “Jane” said. Nicole looks forward to a day when her own boys don't think twice about a woman working.

Back at home, she and husband Jon talk about the criticism. No one questions Jon's ability to handle work and family.

“He doesn't receive that kind of feedback and people don't say that to him,” Galloway said.

Their hope: when their kids have families, each person, will choose what's best for them.

Experts say pregnancy based discrimination more often occurs in smaller or local businesses.

It can take different forms, from comments to all out firing.

So experts say if you think it's happened to you or someone you know: seek help. In Missouri, you must report discrimination to the state within 180 days.

You can do so here

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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