Julie Davis started a new job in a hotel in February 1985. A short time later a new manager told her he resented the female members of the staff and questioned her about their marital status and whether they were planning to have children. Davis suffered through verbal, physical and written abuse when she eventually got pregnant. She later resigned because of the stress.
She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Three and a half years later, there are aspects of her case that still have not been resolved.Davis testified this week during a hearing held by the Utah Anti-Discrimination Division to determine ways in which widespread discrimination against pregnant women can be curbed.
Division Director John Medina said because more and more women of child-bearing age are entering the work force, the problem of discrimination against pregnant women will become more serious unless some rules, regulations or laws are adopted to prevent it.
In an effort to determine the extent of the pregnancy discrimination problem and learn if there is a system to adequately handle the complaints, the State Industrial Commission invited Davis and two other women who said they had been discriminated against to testify.
Marguerite Prescott said she was hired in June 1985 by a concrete company and was the first woman the company had employed to finish concrete. She was assured by company officials that if she got pregnant she could keep her job and that her health insurance would continue.
When she was five months pregnant she had suffered through so much stress her doctor advised her to quit to avoid hurting her unborn baby. Her insurance was canceled and her family had to pay the hospital bill.
Leslie Lund said she worked for an insurance brokerage company, became pregnant and paid extra insurance premiums for maternity benefits. She said her boss was concerned that in the winter she might slip and fall, so she wasn't allowed to work and Lund filed a complaint with the state.
An investigator was able to secure her back wages for her, and the extra insurance premiums she had paid above the regular group health plan premiums, but she is convinced she received the benefits only because an investigator was called in.
The hearing also revealed the following facts:
(BU) Some companies have the resources to financially outlast a woman discriminated against because of pregnancy who takes legal action, and will do so because company officials know they won't have to pay a fine if they are found to have violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
(BU) Pregnant women often have their health insurance terminated just before their baby is born. They often are not given their jobs back after the delivery. Sometimes, harrassment by company officials results in stress on the job.
(BU) On the other hand, many employers are uncertain how the law governs maternity leave and therefore award more benefits than the person is entitled to. Some employers have employees who take advantage of the maternity leave policy.
(BU) On the bright side, many Utah companies are concerned about their employees, especially pregnant women, and bend over backwards to help them work while pregnant and give their jobs back after a reasonable medical leave.
Medina said the law doesn't allow pregnant women to be treated better than other employees, but it does prevent discrimination against them. He said that legally, a pregnant woman can keep working as long as she can do the job, and that she must be given her job back in a reasonable time period, the same as any other person who has been off for health reasons.