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Expecting or Not, Workers Endure Pregnancy Bias

By Carrie Johnson
Monday, April 8, 2002; Page E01

Last week's column about pregnancy discrimination unleashed reader responses from far and wide.

In fact, so many people felt so strongly about the issue that their pointed examples and arguments deserve an @Work column of their own. Here goes.

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First came e-mail messages from women and their partners who remember the trouble of looking for work or winning accommodations during a pregnancy -- or who are living through the experience right now.

One man whose wife works at a department store worries that eight-hour days of standing up behind a counter will soon become too much for her. Her company is resisting the idea of letting her perch on a stool to greet customers and wants her to transfer into a lower-paying job for the duration of the pregnancy, he said.

Robert Weiss, a telecommunications professional in Albuquerque, said his wife went through some trouble with her employer after she became pregnant with their first child last year. Eventually, he said, she was dismissed after complications from the pregnancy extended her leave.

"We chose not to fight it, as my wife didn't want to go back to a hostile environment, but we were still bitter against her former employer," Weiss wrote.

Nancy Feeney of Washington vividly recalled a time in 1980, when she was eight months pregnant and in the middle of an employment search after her husband took a new job.

"I did get an interview in the new town and showed up in all my eight-month glory," Feeney said. "I still can see these Montana men's eyes almost pop. Needless to say, I did not get that job."

But other correspondents called the focus on pregnancy discrimination one-sided and unfair to managers and co-workers who must carry the load for pregnant women.

One woman said the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a federal law that applies to businesses with 15 or more workers, should be amended to include pay raises to reward colleagues who suffer changes to their workload and vacation schedules when one member of a workplace team goes on maternity leave.

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