Pregnancy bias can be costly

Assistant Foreman Harry Swank was in the office when Maintenance Clerk Clara Rice was informed by her doctor that she was pregnant. Swank shook his head. "Evans is going to be fit to be tied when he hears about this." Rice frowned.

08/01/1999


Assistant Foreman Harry Swank was in the office when Maintenance Clerk Clara Rice was informed by her doctor that she was pregnant.

Swank shook his head. "Evans is going to be fit to be tied when he hears about this."

Rice frowned. "I'll have to tell him. If I don't, he'll find out soon enough."

Swank shrugged.

Rice, who was unmarried, had received "Outstanding performance" ratings throughout her 2 yr of em- ployment. When she informed Jerry Evans of her pregnancy, the foreman didn't conceal his annoyance. He asked her a series of personal questions relating to birth control measures used, how her parents felt about the pregnancy, if she knew who the father was, and what role he would play. Rice left the office in tears.

At a performance review the following week, Evans reduced Rice's rating to "satisfactory," and made a notation: "Pregnant out of wedlock."

When her time came, Rice took advantage of the company's maternity leave policy. But when her leave drew to an end, she asked for an extension because of birth complications. The request was supported by a note from her doctor. When Foreman Evans denied the request, Rice made a tearful appeal to his boss, Plant Engineer George Abbott.

Question: In Abbott's place, what response would you make?

Abbott's response: Abbott not only granted Rice's leave extension, but went a step further. Summoning Evans to his office he presented the foreman with the facts of the case as Rice had outlined them and asked him to confirm or deny them. When Evans lowered his eyes, it was answer enough.

Abbott's jaw tightened angrily. "Aside from the human and humane considerations involved," he said, "should Clara Rice take it into her head to sue the company for violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, she would have an excellent case for a fat award, not only for lost pay, but for punitive damages and emotional distress as well. If this is an example of the type of care and respect you have for your people, I can only say that you better be aware that your own career is in jeopardy."





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