Motherhood in the Workplace: Mother’s Day 2022

Motherhood in the workplace (and the experiences that come with even considering the possibility) will play a role in the way a career unfolds for a great deal of employees. Many working women who take time away from full-time employment to raise children return to the workforce and find that it will take decades to find similar salaries and responsibility to what they once held, if they ever do. On this Mother’s Day, we want to take a tongue-in-cheek look at the “value” of some of the jobs mothers do each day and consider why this work is so often dismissed by employers.

Job Description

Rideshare Driver (average annual salary approximately 25-40k): Employee will need to be prepared to drive to a variety of locations around their geographic area on demand.

Purchasing Agent (average annual salary approximately 50-70k): Employee will need to analyze products for the appropriate combination of cost and quality, then ensure that the business is consistently stocked with the amount of goods needed to function.

Office Manager (average annual salary approximately 40-60k): Employee will track the financial picture for the business, ensuring all vendors and bills are paid in a timely manner. Employee will also ensure that key appointments are made and kept.

Chef (average annual salary approximately 30-60k): Employee will manage the functioning of a kitchen and prepare multiple meals per day, both for in-house dining and to-go options.

Full-Time Nanny (average annual salary approximately 30-50k): Employee will take responsibility for nurturing and protecting a child’s mental, physical, and emotional development. Employee will help children reach their full potential and prepare them to be upstanding citizens of the world, while also responding to their numerous needs as they arise.

Of course, as any mom can tell you, this is hardly a comprehensive accounting for the different roles and missions they are tasked with accomplishing each day. It also doesn’t begin to account for the stress of raising a child and the daily pressure and obligation that comes with it. For an unpaid position, that sure is a lot of responsibility!

Motherhood in the Workplace

We won’t wander around the point – the general assumption from an employer is that a mother’s priorities, ambition, and/or commitment to work have changed because of their child. This pervasive and unfair mentality affects women throughout their careers, even before they have children! As part of this article, we spoke with employees at The Noble Law about their experiences with this dynamic in the workplace. A common theme? Even before having a child, the perception was that their employment was a temporary state, a placeholder before their priorities changed to full-time child rearing. One example – an employee’s bosses were discussing her wedding and “playfully” wondering when she would turn in her notice.

While some women may face slightly less overt dismissals, there is no doubt that there is an assumption that a mom is going to drop everything and do whatever her family needs, and that that assumption colors an employer’s perception of the employee’s value.

This discussion is complicated (it’s also okay if your priorities may have changed!), but we think it is important to emphasize that purely on the employment front, employers are missing the point in how they think about motherhood in the workplace. Managing all these different roles makes for an intense and effective learning experience, and a very capable employee. Former stay-at-home moms are some of the hardest working people on the planet. Any employer who can’t see how that sort of person can bring value to their organization simply isn’t thinking hard enough.

Relevant Law

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 was passed to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This added pregnancy discrimination to Title VII’s list of covered areas from which employees are protected against discriminatory or retaliatory actions from their employer. An employee may be facing pregnancy discrimination if their pregnancy leads to:

  • Being sidelined from important projects
  • Exclusion from essential company travel
  • Delays in promotions or raises
  • Unwanted reduced hours or responsibilities
  • Reassigned roles or termination

Additionally, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires that employers treat pregnant employees the same as any other employee who seeks reasonable accommodations for medical situations. For employees who worked more than 1250 hours in the last year for a company that has more than 50 employees, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees their right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

For more context and information on protections against pregnancy discrimination at work, head to our subject matter page on the topic. If you or someone you know is experiencing discrimination because of pregnancy or motherhood in the workplace, it may be useful to speak with an employment law attorney. You can schedule a consultation with The Noble Law here.

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