It’s always a little heart-wrenching when an expectant mother loses her job. Being in the “pregnant and fired” position myself, I can attest that my news has elicited a lot of handwringing from family and friends. (Okay, so “fired” is an exaggeration. I’m just laid off, along with all my Utne Reader colleagues as we watch our beloved magazine close down its Minneapolis office and move south to company headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, come March.) Fortunately, it’s nothing personal. Bad economy, decreased profits, budget cuts, the usual. The Utne president didn’t fire me for requesting maternity leave (as happened to a Canadian army reservist), for having a growing baby bump (as happened to a server at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club), or for using artificial insemination (as happened to an employee at Holy Family and St. Lawrence Catholic schools in Cincinnati). Nor did he badger me to get an abortion (as happened to a worker at Cookie’s Deli in New York). These are real-world examples of ways in which expectant mothers are mistreated in the workplace, even though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 makes it illegal to fire a woman for being pregnant. These are all also real-world examples of women fighting back—suing their employers and bringing the cases to the media.
It’s inconvenient to spend 9 months growing a tiny person inside you. Between the swelling belly, the morning sickness that can make it difficult to perform your job, early complications that can make work dangerous altogether, needing a few months off after the child is born to attend to its constant needs, and needing a more flexible schedule in the months and years to come as you deal with daycare and school and illnesses—it’s a real zinger for you and your employer. But just like our society recognizes that military reservists need regular time off to attend to important duties without jeopardizing their job, we recognize that mothers-to-be need similar flexibility and time to attend to their valued duties. For more information on how to protect yourself and your children, visit the group MomsRising, a nonprofit devoted to building a more family-friendly America.