This week on Full Frontal, Samantha Bee brought up a topic many of us have had to deal with in our careers: pregnancy discrimination. Over 31,000 cases of pregnancy discrimination were filed between 2011 and 2015, she said—and she took companies to task for it.
It’s been illegal to discriminate against pregnant women in the workplace since the 1970s, but clearly that hasn’t put a definitive end to it. Bee brought up some of the high-profile cases in recent years, like postal worker Peggy Young who was told by her doctor not to lift anything over 20 pounds. Her request for light duty was denied, and she was forced to go on unpaid leave. Her male colleagues, on the other hand, were often given light or restricted duties as a result of conditions like DUIs or sprained ankles. Peggy won her case, thank goodness—but it took seven years.
Police officer Jennifer Pannatoni was also forced to go on early leave while pregnant. Not only did her superiors nix all of her suggestions for work she could still do–like taking reports from witnesses, for example–they refused to provide her with a bulletproof vest that would fit her. Bee's pretty sure they had some that were big enough, given, as she puts it, the “male cops pregnant with donuts” Pannatoni probably worked with.
Perhaps the most ridiculous one came from a class action suit against Walmart. When a woman’s doctor told her she couldn't keep lifting heavy objects, her boss denied the request, saying he'd seen Demi Moore do somersaults on TV while pregnant. We kid you not. Here's what Bee had to say about that.
“First of all, since when does Demi Moore set the standard for what normal human people can do? Demi Moore has made pottery with ghosts. Also, about that pregnant somersault...”
As a bit of comedy, she showed a clip from 1994 of Moore on Letterman, who got up to do some acrobatics and was clearly replaced by a stuntwoman.
Bee also pointed out that the wage gap increases for women as they have babies, while it actually decreases for men. ”Do you have any idea how hard it is to stand near someone who's going through labor?” she joked.
Her biggest, more serious takeaway is that our bosses frequently make decisions about our pregnancies without even talking to us about it first. Some refuse to make reasonable changes to our responsibilities, while others reduce our hours (often jeopardizing possible promotions) based on assumptions without ever having a conversation.
Watch the full clip: