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Subtle bias may be leading to pregnancy, parenting discrimination

Many Texas readers are probably aware that pregnancy discrimination is still a major problem in this country despite the significant gains made in legal protections for pregnant employees. What many people do not know is that the discrimination often does not end when the employee returns to work, and that discrimination against employees who have significant parental responsibilities.

In fact, a Harvard Business Review study showed that the wage gap between women with kids and those without kids was greater than the wage gap between men and women. This is a startling figure to many who have found that their coworkers and bosses are friendly and accommodating when they return to work after having a baby. However, survey results also showed that many people perceive employees with children as less committed to their jobs and less competent.

This type of discrimination overwhelming affects women, according to the professor who authored the report. In a laboratory experiment asking professionals to analyze job candidates, researchers found that mothers were penalized in the area of competence and were often given a lower recommendation for starting salary. Men who had children were not similarly penalized and in some situations appeared to benefit from revealing that they had children.

Discrimination based on gender or pregnancy is strictly prohibited under Texas employment law and federal equal protection laws. Female employees who are being paid less than their male counterparts or who are being passed over for promotions because they are pregnant should know that this behavior is unacceptable and that they can pursue fair compensation and equal opportunities.

More information about gender discrimination is available on our employment law website.

Source: The Atlantic, "The Pregnancy Penalty: How Working women Pay for Having Kids," Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Dec. 13, 2012.

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