A January Atlanta Journal Constitution commentary between two female columnists debated the realities of Maternal Profiling -- employment discrimination against a woman who has, or will have, children. Common examples include pregnant women being fired for trumped-up reasons; interview questions designed to weed out mothers and other caregivers; performance reviews designed to eliminate those employees, whether or not work has actually been affected. The broader legal definition, used by Joan Williams and Work-Life Law Center at Hastings College of Law in California, is the term Family Responsibilities Discrimination.
Andrea Cornell Sarvady argues that, no matter what you call it, the practice is "definitely alive and well." She described two cases of women penalized at work for being moms: Auto service technician Mailyn Pickler was fired a week after she told her dealership that she was pregnant; the boss informed her that it wouldn't be prudent to drive the shuttle bus in her condition. Kohl's employee Teresa Lehman gained high marks for a decade, and was assured she was on track to become store manager. Then the mother of two saw five managerial positions go to less experienced employees who were childless or indicated they would have no more children. Laws in place to address these grievances are not always enforced. As employees increasingly take on the care of aging parents in addition to their own offspring, Sarvady agues that our society should continue to find solutions that work for both companies and caregivers.
Sarvady's colleague Shaunti Feldhahn argues that there is "an uncomfortable but legitimate business dynamic at work in situations that look like maternal profiling. If a mom chooses a less-intense job that allows her pick up Johnny at 5:30 p.m., for example, and simply can't tackle late-night meetings or last-minute travel, she'll probably be paid and promoted less than her peers who pull the all-nighter to get the client deal finished. It is frustrating for the sidelined mom, but she is getting the benefit that she prioritizes most: Family time instead of money. We shouldn't penalize a progressive company by insisting that they pay and promote [all] employees the same! Employers have hired employees to work, not just out of the goodness of their heart, and they have to think about their bottom line."
So the question for today: Is there an uncomfortable, but legitimate, business dynamic at work in situations that look like "maternal profiling?" Or do some employers, consciously or unconsciously, act with prejudice against employees who are mothers? Have you been a victim of bias? Have you ever caught yourself assuming a parent wasn't as good an employee as someone without kids? Or vice versa?
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