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Workplace Discrimination Remains Strong By Teresa Cajot In an ideal world, we would have reached a point in the modern workplace where discrimination issues no longer exist. However, as evidenced by the ongoing need for agencies such as the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Labor Department, this is far from true.

Further evidence of this was presented at a public meeting in Washington, DC last week, where panelists reported that despite the implementation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, pregnant women continue to face massive hurdles in the professional world. “Similarly, caregivers-both men and women- too often face unequal treatment on the job,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. In the past decade, pregnancy-related discrimination charges have increased by a whopping 35 percent. Since 2001, the EEOC has taken on a total of 52,000 pregnancy cases. Women, who make-up 47 percent of the US workforce, are often trapped between the desire to expand their families and the fear of a backlash from their employer, thus proving that employers continue to engage in the stereotypical assumption that pregnant women cannot be dedicated employees. Low-wage workers in the services industry are particularly vulnerable, often experiencing prejudice, reduced work hours, demotion, or job loss as the result of a pregnancy or caregiving responsibilities. Due to the fact that the US is one of the only industrialized nations that does not require paid

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sick days, many of these workers lack even that financial protection. Furthermore, even after the employee gives birth, the discrimination typically continues in the form of the “motherhood wage penalty “ of as much as five percent per child, which is calculated following consideration of education and experience. Many in attendance at the February 15 meeting suggested that greater collaboration between the EEOC and the Department of Labor, which is responsible for enforcing the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Affordable Care Act’s Break Time for Nursing Mother’s provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act, could potentially serve to reduce the incidence of such discrimination by reducing overlapping laws. The public has been invited to submit comments on workplace discrimination against pregnant women during the month of February at commissionmeetingcomments@eeoc.gov. The EEOC is expected to release a four-year strategic plan on reducing pregnancy discrimination in September.

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Workplace Discrimination Remains Strong