As a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood, Ta’Lisa Hairston urged pregnant women to take rest breaks at work, stay hydrated and, please, eat regular meals.
Then she got pregnant and couldn’t follow her own advice.
Last winter, Ms. Hairston told the human-resources department for Planned Parenthood’s clinic in White Plains, N.Y., that her high blood pressure was threatening her pregnancy. She sent the department multiple notes from her nurse recommending that she take frequent breaks.
Managers ignored the notes. They rarely gave her time to rest or to take a lunch break, Ms. Hairston said.
“I had to hold back tears talking to pregnant women, telling them to take care of their pregnancies when I couldn’t take care of mine,” she said. “It made me jealous.”
Discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers remains widespread in the American workplace. It is so pervasive that even organizations that define themselves as champions of women are struggling with the problem.
That includes Planned Parenthood, which has been accused of sidelining, ousting or otherwise handicapping pregnant employees, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees.
In interviews and legal documents, women at Planned Parenthood and other organizations with a feminist bent described discrimination that violated federal or state laws — managers considering pregnancy in hiring decisions, for example, or denying rest breaks recommended by a doctor.
In other cases, the bias was more subtle. Many women said they were afraid to announce a pregnancy at work, sensing they would be seen as abandoning their colleagues.