Women's Leader Alarmed by Justice Department Official's Statement Indicating Employee Lost Appointment Due to Maternity Leave
Materials Released by Department as Part of Investigation of U.S. Attorney Firings Suggest Possible Legal Violation
Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families
WASHINGTON, DC — March 21, 2007 — "It is deeply disturbing that a U.S. Justice Department official said publicly that a well-qualified woman was ignored for an appointment as interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas because she was on maternity leave. If a woman who was pregnant or on maternity leave was singled out for different treatment and, as a result, was not considered for a job, then the Justice Department broke the law. Pregnancy discrimination has been illegal in this country since 1964, which Congress reaffirmed in 1978. Justice Department officials should know very well that pregnancy is never a legal, valid or appropriate reason to deny anyone an appointment or promotion.
Pregnancy discrimination complaints are rising sharply in this country. A study conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families in 2004 found that pregnancy discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC rose by 39 percent from FY 1992 to FY 2003. This starkly highlights the need for more vigorous enforcement of our nation's anti-discrimination laws. That Justice Department officials, who are charged with enforcing and upholding our nation's laws, think it is acceptable to use pregnancy as a reason to discriminate sends the wrong message to this nation’s employers and concerns us deeply.
We call on the Inspector General to immediately review all U.S. Department of Justice policies and practices to ensure that no employee is penalized for being pregnant or taking parental leave. We urge the Bush Administration to step up EEOC enforcement of anti-discrimination laws of all kinds, so that no worker has to face employment discrimination."
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family.