Last week, rumors swirled that Kim Kardashian was pregnant with Kanye West’s baby. She’s not, but the consensus seemed to be that a mini Kimye would provide a boost to Kim’s career. That’s true for many celebrities who find they become much more interesting to tabloid reporters and fans once they have kids. Think Kendra Wilkinson, Bethenny Frankel, and Snooki, other reality stars whose pregnancies gave them major career boosts. Jessica Simpson hasn’t had a pop hit in a decade, but her pregnancy landed her on the cover of multiple magazines. “Being a celebrity mom has more business opportunities than ever before,” an US Weekly editor said this spring. In pop culture, we’re baby-crazy. But for for everyday working women who get pregnant, it’s a whole different story.
An op-ed in the New York Times pointed out this weekend that it’s still very difficult to be a pregnant working woman if you’re not Marissa Mayer. For women who are not at the tippy-top of their field — and therefore seen as replaceable — it’s a whole different story.
The law says that companies with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against pregnant women in hiring. But hiring discrimination is extremely difficult to prove. Meanwhile, between 2005 and 2011, claims of workplace discrimination made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rose 23%. The complaints include one filed against a seafood restaurant in Florida where two servers say they were fired after management found out they were pregnant. The op-ed writer, Alissa Quart, says when her pregnant friends interview at law firms and other white-collar organizations, they attempt to hide their condition with huge sweaters and jackets.
A proposed law called the the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require employers to provide accommodations for pregnant women similar to the ones they provide to disabled workers: water breaks, exemptions for heavy lifting, etc. Quart concedes that it would mean some hardships for companies that offer generous paid leave: Keeping a pregnant woman on payroll costs money, after all.
But, Quant concludes, “We can admit that pregnant workers may be less profitable employees than nonpregnant workers in the short term, yet choose to value aspects of life beyond economic productivity.” Not to mention the dysfunction “culture of deceit” that having to lie about a pregnancy encourages. On this one issue, the Kardashian and Simpson families actually look like models of sanity.