Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Can you lay-off pregnant women?

Do pregnant women deserve special treatment when it comes to lay-offs?

Laid Off – and Pregnant - The Blogs

Let's think about this.

Who's going to suffer if the woman does not get proper pre-natal care? Who requires massive amounts of pre- and post-natal care?

Remember that whole potential child inside that woman?

The woman herself, no, she doesn't deserve any "special treatment." But the baby inside of her does. That potential baby (and actual baby, once it's born) requires massive amounts of medical care, and in our country, medical care is tied to your job. No job = no insurance = no doctor because how in the world are you going to afford it?*

Laying off a pregnant mother is not like laying off an expectant father. An expectant father doesn't look pregnant. Because he's not pregnant. He can still work through the pregnancy and the birth. Yes, he'll want some time off, but he can manage working through it much better than the mother can. He's also not going to be breastfeeding for the first year after the baby is born. (Guys, I love ya, but IT'S NOT THE SAME FOR YOU.)

All the points brought up in that post are true: you think you're going to be given a fair interview when you walk in preceded by that belly? And where are you going to get the money to pay for your six weeks of maternity leave when you were hired three months ago?

(PS: read the comments. I think I'm moving back to Chile. Or President Obama needs to take a trip down there and have a little chat with Bachelet about maternity leave and such.)

*And please keep in mind that is only if you are lucky enough to work for a large enough company that can provide you with medical insurance (not the case for my darling husband, though he works full-time); or that you work for an ethical enough company that they will give you full-time work so you can qualify for benefits instead of consistently scheduling you for just a few hours short of FT...


  1. The thing that makes this so complicated, is that by this argument anyone with kids should never be fired. Prenatal care and childbirth obviously are a huge upfront cost that any pregnant woman will have to go through, but even after that kids are still very expensive medical-wise. There's monthly well-checks most of the first year, vaccines to pay for, and if you have ANY kids at ANY point one of them could land in the hospital and need urgent care, or just get sick, etc, and the parents will need insurance coverage for that.

    If the main argument for not firing pregnant women is the insurance part, then expectant fathers shouldn't be fired, either, b/c what if they have the better insurance plan? Or any insurance plan, for that matter? If Zach had gotten fired when I was pregnant (or hell if he gets fired now) we'd be screwed b/c I don't work, thus don't have my own coverage. So the father would also need protection from layoffs if he's the provider of the family (in terms of insurance, especially).

    In a twisty, ironic, cynical sense, since most parents only get the option for UNPAID leave anyway, getting that severance package which is usually at least a few weeks of full pay, along with unemployment payments, might leave them better off than FMLA (remember, UNPAID) does.

    All that said, clearly we need to figure out a better way to get everyone covered, whether employed or not. Insurance is expensive, and you're paying for it either way (the full amt you pay if you do it on your own is the same as your company pays for you, money that would otherwise be going into your paycheck). We need to figure out ways to make our coverage more affordable, for EVERYONE. Till then, for this type of situation, I wonder if there should be rules so that if the woman isn't covered by any other plan, the company that fired her is still obligated to cover her until after the baby's born.

  2. The key point to me is the pregnant stomach.

    Employers don't want to hire you when they know you're going to be out for six weeks within a few months. The father has a better chance of getting another job because he doesn't look pregnant, and can work through labor and maternity leave (or at least he does not need to disclose at the interview that he will be taking paternity leave, he can share that info after getting hired). Same with a mother of already-born children: she doesn't have to report, at the interview, that she has children at home.

    At my first job, I was hired pretty much via phone. So was this other lady. She showed up the first day of training with a nice, fat, pregnant belly. And the department chair did comment to me that she was upset they'd hired someone who was going to be out for six weeks during the school year; that they probably would not have hired her had they known that. She felt the woman should have told them she was pregnant.

    Pregnant women are in a different category because of the nature of pregnancy; therefore they deserve some special considerations.

  3. PS - I completely agree that we need to fix the bloody health care system. It's an embarrassment.