It’s been a big month for reducing the stigma of pregnant women at work:
First, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, 37, became the first world leader in three decades to give birth while in office (and only the second world leader overall ever!).
Second, in a move aptly billed as “an ace for female tennis players everywhere,” the U.S. Open recently announced it will no longer dock the rankings of female players, like the legendary Serena Williams, who return from maternity leave. Ms. Williams—the holder of 23 Grand Slam wins, the most of any tennis player in the Open Era—is returning to tennis this year after giving birth to her first child in September 2017, and her ranking had dropped from No. 1 in the world to No. 454 due to her leave of absence from the game. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has yet to announce how it will update its ranking policy in advance of this year’s U.S. Open. (Meanwhile, Williams’s husband, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, has instituted an egalitarian policy of 16 weeks of paid family leave at his investment firm, Initialized Capital.)
Despite these advances, “pregnancy discrimination is rampant inside America ’s biggest companies,” according to a recent report by The New York Times. While men’s earnings increase by six percent when they become fathers, each child subtracts 4 percent from a woman’s hourly wages, according to a recent study from a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. As the Times recounts, pregnancy discrimination affects both blue and white-collar working women. In one striking anecdote offered by the Times, Rachel Mountis, an award-winning sales representative at the pharmaceutical company Merck, was laid off after she announced her pregnancy. Ms. Mountis is currently part of a lawsuit, filed by Sanford Heisler Sharp in 2014, that represents nearly 4,000 women at Merck. Christine Macarelli, another woman interviewed by the Times, was told by her employer, Novartis, that she should “consider an abortion” when she became pregnant. Macarelli was part of a class action against Novartis, litigated by the successor firm to Sanford Heisler Sharp, which settled for $175 million in 2010.
Sanford Heisler Sharp regularly brings pregnancy discrimination cases and fights discrimination in the workplace in New York and across the country. If you have concerns that you are being treated unfairly at work due to your status as a woman, a pregnant woman, or a mother, please call our offices to discuss your situation with the Sanford Heisler Sharp legal team.