By Jack Tuckner, Esq.
I’m pretty pissed off myself about gender pay disparity, and I’ve been enjoying male privilege for about six decades now. I don’t know how anybody who is female, or who knows a female, loves a female, has a daughter, or a spouse, or a mother, isn’t really put out by the fact that women earn on average way less than men do, for performing comparable work.
Sexism is a thing obviously. How many men would change places, would trade with women, given the opportunity? How many? I don’t think I would any more than, as Chris Rock famously said, “There’s not a white guy in this room that would trade places with me, and I’m rich!” This is true in the same way with race. Gender discrimination, sex discrimination in society, in the workplace is real. And until everybody gets angry enough to change that, where we elect people who in fact, know that equal pay needs to be enforced, that paid family leave needs to be enacted on a federal level, that the motherhood penalty that women earn less than men continuously because they become moms, and we don’t reward that in our culture. We don’t even have required maternity leave, can you imagine? We’re the only civilized country, so-called, the only nation in the 34 OECD nations in the so-called first world, that don’t require pay for women when they have babies. So we don’t walk the family values talk, and women need to take maternity leave for several months, women bear the brunt of family responsibilities still at home with the child when the child is sick, housekeeping, etc.
Women who have babies earn substantially less throughout their careers than women who never have children because of the prime motherhood years in the 20s and 30s, when women start having children, is when they get mommy tracked. When you lose your momentum, you lose your upward professional trajectory. And that’s again all to do with–nothing biological–except for the fact that women bear children. It’s discriminatory. It’s cultural, and it’s a problem that we need to address.
So here’s the thing: the solution is that, if you are a woman being paid less than a man, or treated worse than you should be treated at work because you’re a woman, because you’re pregnant, because you had a baby, because you took some protected disability leave either while you were pregnant, or after your baby was born, and now you are being penalized for it, or punished for it, you have to oppose it. You have to object to it, and you have to put that in writing so that your company, however small or big, gets it that you’re saying, “Excuse me, as a woman, I believe I’m being treated differently because I’m a woman. Or, because I am a woman who just had a baby, or because I am a woman who is going to have a baby.” And that’s illegal. That is sex discrimination, its pregnancy discrimination, its disability discrimination when it’s related to pregnancy-related physical challenges, including maternity leave. And this includes when you come back from maternity leave, and you need to express milk.
That’s all part of the new world order in this country right now, with regard to pregnancy discrimination, sex discrimination, and the power that women do already have under the law but really nobody knows about it. And its difficult to take that step against your company because your company is not exactly trumpeting all of this news to help you because it’s not in its best profit-making interest to support you as a woman, particularly a woman who has other interests, other than working for this company.
If you’re trying to balance your family and professional life which we all are, but it’s more difficult as a woman, understand that, by holding your company’s feet to the fire, if you will, by simply saying “I expect to be paid thus and such like Joe Blow who is a comparable employee to me, or I feel upset the way I’m being treated as a woman, or a pregnant woman,, the company has to, must under federal law and your state’s employment law, investigate that complaint, meaning that, they have to take you seriously, they actually have to pay attention, and if they don’t pay attention, and they are cavalier, dismissive, or they just don’t respond, or, they treat you worse because you’re standing up for yourself, that’s illegal retaliation and backlash.
And if you have to go down in flames, if you’re going to leave or quit or get fired, you might as well do it in style, you might as well teach your employer a lesson, make it better for women who come after you. And you’ll be in a position to have a lot more power and leverage in negotiations with your company, whether you’re still working there, or you’ve already left, although remember–don’t quit–that’s a bad word for us employee rights lawyers – quitting. Don’t quit your job, but by complaining if things go really bad, you will be in a much stronger position to make as much lemonade as you can out of these lemons, which is your current employment situation. If you want to talk about your situation with us, with me Jack Tuckner, or with Deborah O’Rell, give us a shout. The initial consultation is free of charge, and completely confidential.