Articles Posted in Parental Leave

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Civil Rights Act) was monumental in that it provided crucial rights to many people who had been denied equal treatment for many years. While the Act prohibited discrimination based on certain bases, other bases were left uncovered. One area of Texas employment discrimination the Civil Rights Act did not solve was pregnancy discrimination. Following the Civil Rights Act, employers continued to discriminate against women on the basis of their pregnancy. When it came time to explain their seemingly discriminatory behavior, employers routinely claimed they were basing their actions not on the sex of the employee (which was prohibited under the Act) but instead on the fact that the employee was pregnant. This was an unfortunate but accepted distinction for 14 years.

In 1978, however, things changed for the better with the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978. Technically, the PDA was an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The text of the PDA was short, and the message was straightforward. Essentially, discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, child birth, or related medical conditions” was considered sex discrimination. Thus, an employer could no longer discriminate on the basis of an employee’s pregnant status, since doing so would amount to sex discrimination.

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Half of the workforce is female, but only 12% of women have paid maternity leave, according to the United States Department of Labor. The United States is the only industrialized country around the globe that doesn’t require employers to provide paid maternity leave, even though studies show health benefits to children, mothers, and fathers when parental leave is provided. Paid maternity and paternity leave make sense both economically and from the standpoint of health.

Infant mortality is reduced by up to 10% in 141 countries with paid leave policies. This leave allows for infants to receive necessary medical care and vaccinations during one of their most vulnerable times of life.

Parental leave also increases how long mothers feel comfortable breastfeeding. Mothers who receive paid leave breastfeed for twice as long as those who don’t get leave. Since breastfeeding decreases the likelihood of infection, asthma, obesity, and SIDS, there are benefits for the health care system in improving the chances of a mother being able to breastfeed comfortably for a longer duration.

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