Women and the Workplace: Pregnancy Discrimination in the United States

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Women and the workplace: Pregnancy Discrimination in the United States I. Abstract With an increasing number of women entering the workforce, pregnancy discrimination has become a pervasive problem. This paper, which focuses on the United States (US), thus considers the underlying reasons and impacts of this biasness from the perspectives of both employee and employer. It then follows with a study on the legal protections in place to prevent such behaviour. And lastly, it will analyse various ethical issues involved in this unequal treatment of pregnant employees in the workplace using ethical frameworks such as Utilitarianism theory, Kantian Ethics and John Rawls’ Justice as Fairness. These ethical frameworks will help highlight…show more content…
In fact, a study in the US showed that given identical credentials and interview performance of two individuals, the evidently pregnant applicant would be rated lower compared to a non-pregnant applicant. The negative mind-set of employers on pregnant employees plays an important role in causing discrimination. Women’s performance ratings were seen to decline after being pregnant, from “superb” to “terrible” as shared by one victim of pregnancy discrimination. This is because they are perceived as “overly emotional, often irrational, physically limited, and less than committed to their jobs” as compared to their non-pregnant woman counterparts and are hence “less valuable and dependable.” There is also the problem of additional workload for remaining staff or the potential need to hire temporary staff to tide over the maternity leave period. To compound the issue, employers suffer uncertainty as to when the employee will return to work, or worse, the employee leaves for good after their maternity leave period. In fact, a study done shows that only 60% of women go back to work within two years of their maternity leave. It is hence unavoidable that employers, being cost sensitive, worry that all the extra cost incurred will ultimately become a meaningless loss if their pregnant employees do not return to work. This is especially dreadful for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) with a very small staff size. The absence of one
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