Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’


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There is no federal protection for women workers who are pregnant. Such as Angelica Valencia [ht: sm], who was fired after she requested permission from her employer not to be forced to work overtime.

The United States did pass The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which prohibits discrimination “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” But the Act does not require employers to do anything to accommodate the needs of pregnant workers (although the Supreme Court is set to hear a case, Young v. United Parcel Service, on “whether, and in what circumstances, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. . .requires an employer that provides work accommodations to non-pregnant employees with work limitations to provide work accommodations to pregnant employees who are ‘similar in their ability or inability to work'”).  And the Pregnant Women’s Fairness Act, H.R. 1975 and S. 942 [pdf], which was referred to Committee on 14 May 14 2013, has no chance of being enacted anytime soon.

So, seventeen separate states and cities, such Illinois and New York City, have had to pass their own legislative protections. Still, many workers don’t know their rights, and often don’t have the means to demand compliance. And their employers often disregard the laws that do exist.

Respecting a woman’s pregnancy at work is also a social and racial equity issue. According to the National Women’s Law Center, low-wage women workers, many of them primary income-earners, often have more physically demanding duties, such as lifting boxes or prolonged standing. Pregnancy-related discrimination complaints have been concentrated in the highly gendered service sectors, like retail sales and hospitality. Many physically strenuous jobs like domestic work and home healthcare services are disproportionately done by immigrant and black women.

A female executive of the Lean In class probably wouldn’t be reprimanded for wanting to lean back a bit with a foot rest at board meetings. But women workers at Walmart had to wage a national campaign for months before the company changed its policies to ensure reasonable pregnancy accommodations (and many say the policy remains only spottily enforced).


There’s good news. And bad news.

The good: Angela Valencia’s bosses [ht: sm] have offered her job back. The bad: the United States still doesn’t have a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (see original post).


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Excerpts from the letter sent by the 4 to 5 Movement to Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., the president of the University of Notre Dame, can be found here.

The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality has collected 20 facts about inequality in the United States that “everyone should know.”

The eighth one, illustrated above, deals with racial discrimination (measured in terms of the interview call-back rate for women with “white” names and “black” names):

Racial discrimination continues to be [important] in the labor market. An experiment carried out in Chicago and Boston during 2001 and 2002 shows that resumes with “white-sounding” names, whether male or female, were much more likely to result in call backs for interviews than were those with “black-sounding” names (even though the resumes were otherwise identical).

Liberal pundits are all incensed about Rand Paul’s win in Kentucky and his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But their self-righteous critique of Paul (and of right-wing libertarianism generally) is not very effective, for two reasons.

First, their focus on Paul’s opposition to some of the provisions in the Civil Rights Act (as Rachel Maddow did on Wednesday evening), and their efforts to prove he is a racist, fail to raise the larger question of whether private capitalist enterprises can be regulated by the state. That’s the real question—the question of capitalist private property—that needs to be posed to right-wing libertarianism.

Second, they fail to understand that Paul’s opposition to laws against private discrimination is based on a longstanding neoclassical model of discrimination. According to this model, created by Gary Becker, capitalist employers who have a “taste” for discrimination will face additional costs. Competitive pressures will force such discriminatory enterprises out of business and, as a result, discrimination will eventually cease to exist.*

So, if liberals really want to take on Rand Paul, they need to criticize both the sanctity of capitalist private property and the hegemony of neoclassical economics.

* To be complete, there are actually two neoclassical models of discrimination. The other one, favored by saltwater neoclassicals, is statistical discrimination. Both models deny that racism determines wages and other market outcomes.