Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

Carly McCann & Donald Tomaskovic-Devey

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Despite laws intended to end workplace pregnancy discrimination, thousands of women face employer discrimination related to their pregnancies every year.1 This is true for women in low wage physically demanding occupations,2 high wage occupations,3 and even workplaces dedicated to supporting women.4

Discrimination against pregnant workers has been illegal since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed in 1978. The PDA formally prohibited employer discrimination on the basis of pregnancy by explicitly categorizing pregnancy discrimination as sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Though the PDA has helped more women continue working while pregnant, research has consistently found that women continue to face employer discrimination related to their pregnancies.5 

However, much of this research focuses on litigated court cases. Litigated cases are important for clarifying courts’ interpretation of laws and providing precedent, however, since only a small minority of employer discrimination charges go to court, examining litigated cases does not provide a full understanding of the extent of pregnancy discrimination and the remedies available to those who file a charge against their employer. Our report provides a broader understanding of workplace pregnancy discrimination by analyzing all 26,650 pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs) between 2012 and 2016.

This report provides a brief introduction to pregnancy discrimination law and what is known about the prevalence of pregnancy discrimination in U.S. workplaces. We then outline the process of filing a charge and examine who files pregnancy discrimination charges. Next, we examine the content of pregnancy charges—the types of discrimination that targets allege. We then analyze the industrial and workplace contexts that produce pregnancy discrimination and review the outcomes of pregnancy discrimination charges. We conclude with some policy proposals and recommendations for future research and EEOC data collection protocols.



This report uses confidential employer discrimination charge data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This report focuses on charges that include an allegation of employer discrimination on the basis pregnancy filed between fiscal years 2012 and 2016. These charges may be filed directly with the EEOC or with one of the state or local Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs) that have work sharing agreements with the EEOC. As a result, we analyze data on charges dual-filed with the EEOC and FEPAs from all states and the District of Columbia. This research was conducted under strict confidentiality restrictions enforced by the EEOC.

View Fuzzy Matching Appendix and Industry Appendix 



Main Findings

  • Pregnancy discrimination is a unique form of sex discrimination. Compared to other forms of discrimination, pregnancy discrimination happens quickly—when discriminat- ing employers learn that an employee is pregnant she is fired, often the same day.
  • Despite an overall higher success rate of receiving benefits than other forms of sex discrimination, the majority (74%) of pregnancy charges result in no monetary benefit or required workplace change through the EEOC process. Of the 23% of charges that receive any monetary benefit, the average benefit is only $17,976 and the median benefit is only $8,000. These monetary benefits are lower than those secured for other sex-based discrimination charges.
  • The rate of pregnancy discrimination appears to be higher in male dominated industries.
  • Having more female managers appears to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy discrimination in a workplace. Establishments charged with pregnancy discrimination tend to have more male managers.
  • Pregnancy discrimination claims take on average 280 days to resolve within the EEOC case processing system. Since a normal pregnancy lasts about the same amount of time and it is likely that women do not disclose their pregnancy in the first trimester, the charging system is not well designed to prevent or redress pregnancy discrimination.


Pregnancy Discrimination and the Law

Prior to the implementation of pregnancy discrimination laws, women were routinely fired from their jobs because of their pregnancies.6 This practice was both common and legal. Through both official policy and personal biases, employers frequently refused to hire pregnant women, forced pregnant women to resign, and denied them the insurance benefits and disability coverage available to other workers.7

Two early Supreme Court cases upheld these practices by ruling that pregnancy discrimination was not a form of sex discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In a controversial ruling in Geduldig v. Aiello (1974), the Court ruled that the exclusion of pregnancy from California’s disability insurance program did not constitute sex discrimination because the program did not discriminate between men and women, but rather “the program divided potential recipients into two groups–pregnant women and nonpregnant persons.”8 The ruling in Geduldig laid the groundwork for a similar Supreme Court ruling two years later. In General Electric Co. v. Gilbert (1976), the Supreme Court held that Title VII protection against sex discrimination did not include pregnancy discrimination by allowing General Electric’s insurance policy to exclude coverage for pregnancy.9 Outrage following this ruling quickly led to the formation of the Campaign to End Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers (CEDAPW), a coalition of over 200 activists and feminists, and even some anti-abortion activists, dedicated to amending Title VII to protect pregnant workers.10 The campaign culminated in the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA).

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is the only federal law aimed at protecting pregnant women in the workplace. The PDA amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to “prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.”11 The PDA applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. The PDA requires employers to accommodate pregnant workers only if it is already doing so for other employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.”12 Under the PDA, employers are required to treat pregnant workers the same as any other temporarily disabled employee, such as someone with a back injury, by providing reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations include allowing a pregnant employee more frequent bathroom breaks, modifying a work schedule, granting leave in addition to what an employer may provide under sick leave, or temporarily assigning an employee to light duty.13 Because employers are only required to accommodate workers if it accommodates “similarly situated” employees,  this means “employers can treat pregnant women as badly as they treat similarly affected but nonpregnant employees.”14

Additionally, under the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) employers must provide reasonable accommodation for pregnancy related disabilities, unless doing so would result in “significant difficulty or expense.”15 Although pregnancy itself is not a disability, the ADAAA expanded the definition of disability to include pregnancy related impairments, such as gestational diabetes, pregnancy related carpal tunnel syndrome, or preeclampsia, as covered disabilities. Although the ADAAA expanded the coverage for some pregnant workers, “it is not likely to substantially impact women’s ability to be protected from adverse employment” given how few pregnancy discrimination claims include ADA claims.16 Additionally, the court’s distinction between the natural state of pregnancy and “pregnancy related disabilities” has limited the ability of the ADA to protect pregnant employees.17

The interpretation of these laws in U.S. courts has a complex history.18 While the PDA provides pregnant workers the right to be treated the same as workers with similar abilities, the courts have historically struggled to define the proper comparison group. The 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc. provided some clarity on employers’ responsibilities to accommodate pregnant workers. When Peggy Young, a delivery driver for United Parcel Service (UPS), became pregnant her doctor recommended that she not lift more than 20 pounds. As an “air driver,” delivering packages that arrived overnight by air, Young primarily delivered small envelopes and rarely had to deliver packages that weighed 20 pounds, much less the 70 pounds required in the job description. When she provided her supervisor with her doctor’s note, she was told she would not be allowed to work if she could not lift the required 70 pounds for drivers and was placed on unpaid leave.

Trial and appellate courts ruled that UPS did not violate the PDA because they did not single out pregnancy—there were, in theory, other employees who would need accommodations and not receive them. However, Ms. Young provided evidence that UPS provided accommodations to other employees suffering disabilities that had not occurred on the job, including accommodations to drivers who lost their Department of Transportation certifications due to driving under the influence or a motor vehicle accident, but did not provide her the same accommodations.19 The Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 in favor of Peggy Young and stated that accommodating a large group of employees but not pregnant workers is aviolation of the PDA.

Despite ruling in Ms. Young’s favor, the court did not provide outright protection for pregnant workers. In the majority opinion, the Court wrote that the PDA did not require employers to provide accommodations to pregnant workers that were offered to any other worker. Instead, the Court wrote that PDA failure to accommodate cases will require pregnant workers “to show that many workers were treated better than they were and that the employer’s reason for differential treatment was in fact a ‘pretext’ for discrimination.”20

Activists and politicians have argued that by only providing a comparative, rather than absolute, right to accommodation, current laws stop short of guaranteeing protection for all pregnant workers. A recent report by A Better Balance, a work and family legal center, found that in over two-thirds of pregnancy discrimination cases brought to court since the 2015 Young ruling, courts have ruled that employers were permitted to deny accommodations to pregnant workers under the PDA primarily because of the difficulties plaintiffs face in establishing “comparator” employees.21

Because the PDA only provides comparative protection, many activists and legal scholars are advocating for Congress to pass the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The PWFA, if passed, would explicitly require reasonable accommodation of pregnancy regardless of how employers treat other similarly situated employees. As with the current ADA, the proposed PWFA would apply only to employers with 15 or more employees and would allow exemptions for businesses if the accommodation imposes undue hardship on an employer.

The PWFA was first introduced in 2012 and was referred to Committees but never reached the floor for a vote. After years of failing to come to a vote, in September 2020 the House of Representatives passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in a strong bipartisan vote (329-73). Although the federal law has not yet passed, as of May 2020, 29 states, the District of Columbia, and four cities have passed similar legislation requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodation for pregnant workers.22


How Prevalent is Pregnancy Discrimination?

Estimating the national prevalence of pregnancy discrimination is difficult given the lack of data on pregnant women’s work experiences. Yet, understanding the workplace experiences of expecting mothers is essential given their growing labor force participation and increasing labor force attachment. According to a 2011 Census Report, the likelihood that a woman in the U.S. would work while pregnant increased significantly through the 1960s and 70s.23 In the early 1960s about 45% of women worked during their first pregnancies, but by 2008 about 65% of women worked during their first pregnancies. Today, nearly 70% of women work during their pregnancies.

Not only are more women working during their pregnancies, but they are also working later into their pregnancies. In the 1960s, most (65%) women pregnant with their first child stopped working more than a month before the birth and only about 35% continued working into the final month of their pregnancy. By 2008, this trend reversed with about 82% of working women pregnant with their first child continuing to work within one month of the birth compared with just 18% who stopped more than a month before their birth.

Despite the increasing trend of women working during their pregnancies, expecting mothers continue to face challenges in the workplace. While many women can continue working during pregnancy without any adjustments to their job, a recent survey by Childbirth Connection, an initiative focused on maternity care, found that the majority of women who worked during their pregnancies needed some type of workplace accommodation related to their pregnancy.  Often, these accommodations are minor;  the majority (71%) of women who reported needing an accommodation required more frequent breaks, such as extra bathroom breaks.  While most of the surveyed women reported that their employers honored their request, a significant number of women reported that employers denied their requests and claimed they were not required to honor pregnancy-related accommodations. Based on these survey results, an estimated 250,000 women are denied accommodations related to their pregnancies each year.24 This is likely a conservative estimate of unmet need, given that around 36% of women who reported needing an accommodation did not ask their employer.25

As with other forms of employer discrimination, the majority of women who experience workplace pregnancy discrimination do not file a formal discrimination charge. For example, our prior research has estimated that less than 1% of workplace sexual harassment incidences are filed with the EEOC or FEPA.26 Approximately 5,300 pregnancy discrimination charges are filed each year, suggesting that only about 2% of pregnancy discrimination incidences are filed with the federal EEOC or state FEPA.


Filing a Pregnancy Discrimination Charge

Before an employee who believes they have been discriminated against can file a lawsuit against their employer, they first must submit a complaint to the EEOC or a local state Fair Employment Practices Agency (FEPA).27 A charge of discrimination does not determine that unlawful discrimination occurred; rather, it initiates the process for the EEOC to investigate whether there is reasonable cause to determine that discrimination occurred.

After the charge is filed, the EEOC has several routes to resolving charges, any of which can lead to monetary or other benefits, such as the primary goal of workplace accommodations, for the charging party. Prior to an investigation, the EEOC offers charging parties and their employers a mediation process with a third-party mediator to resolve a complaint.28 Charges may also be settled at any time during the investigation process. Mediation and settlements are voluntary and typically save time and effort associated with investigations. If the charge is not resolved through mediation or a settlement, it will continue through the investigation process where the EEOC will collect additional information from the charging party and the employer to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred.

After an investigation in which the EEOC finds reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred, the EEOC works to resolve a complaint through a conciliation process. Approximately 2% of pregnancy discrimination charges filed with EEOC between 2012 and 2016 resulted in successful conciliation. Although a small proportion of pregnancy discrimination charges, it is similar to the rate for all types of employer discrimination charges protected under Title VII filed with the EEOC.29 Most charges are settled in the EEOC’s mediation or conciliation processes or are dropped. A charging party may drop out of the EEOC process and request a right to sue letter or the charge may be closed for administrative reasons such as failure to locate the charging party, lack of jurisdiction, or the charging party requests withdrawal of the charge.30 In the EEOC charge data, 15% of pregnancy charges were closed for these administrative reasons.

If conciliation fails, either the charging party or the EEOC may file a lawsuit in court.31 Only a small number of employer discrimination charges goes to court, and the EEOC files a limited number of employer discrimination cases.32 For example, in 2014 the EEOC filed 14 pregnancy related lawsuits.33 Charging parties can get a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC and bring a lawsuit to court via the private bar. Research by Michelle Deardorff and James Dahl suggests this is also rare. From the passage of the PDA in 1978 to 2013, Deardorff and Dahl recorded 1,112 federal district and appellate court cases that explicitly relied on the PDA and/or ADA for legal authority. This suggests only about 33 pregnancy discrimination cases go to court each year.34 Thus, it is the EEOC resolution process, not private courts, that is the primary legal adjudicator of pregnancy discrimination complaints.

Charges that go to trial are likely some of the most contested cases (charges with the most merit are likely settled prior to trial and charges with the least merit are likely dropped).35 These cases that reach the litigation phase are important, not just for that specific case, but for future cases as they “have an impact on precedent, the determination of future litigation and statutory interpretation.”36 The rulings in courts can determine how other federal courts and the EEOC interpret the PDA and ADA.


Who Files Pregnancy Discrimination Charges?

Using data on employer discrimination charges filed with the EEOC or state FEPA between 2012 to 2016, table 1 describes the race of women who filed pregnancy discrimination charges compared to sex-based discrimination complaints that do not include an allegation of pregnancy discrimination.37

Table 1: Title VII Employment Discrimination Charges by Race 
  Percent of All Pregnancy Charges Percent of Other Sex-Based Charges Percent of U.S. Female Labor Force
White Women 57% 52% 76%
Black Women 37% 42% 14%
Women of Other Races 6% 6% 10%
 Note: Sample is 5,683,567 full-time, year-round, aged 16 to 65 workers from the American Community Survey cumulative file 2011-2015. 


Relative to other sex-based discrimination charges, pregnancy discrimination charges are more common among white women and less common among black women. However, relative to their representation in the labor market overall, black women report a disproportionately large percentage of workplace pregnancy discrimination charges; they account for 14% of the female labor force but file 37% of pregnancy discrimination charges.38 This may be because mothers in low-wage jobs, where workplace accommodations for pregnancy may be more necessary due to the physical requirements of these jobs, are disproportionately women of color.39 It may also be driven by different expectations and assumptions of work and motherhood along racial, ethnic, and class lines.40


Contents of a Pregnancy Discrimination Charge

Discrimination charges may contain one or more legal basis for the complaint as well as at least one issue. A basis is the legally protected category that the plaintiff claims was the root cause of discrimination. Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its extensions, these protected categories include race, sex, pregnancy, color, religion, disability, age, and national origin. Additionally, the law prohibits retaliation against individuals who file a discrimination claim by protecting an employee’s right to oppose unlawful discrimination, thus protection from retaliation is another basis for filing a discrimination charge.

An issue is the action or policy alleged to be discriminatory—the kind of discrimination that took place—such as firing, demotion, or harassment. Discrimination charges often contain multiple bases and issues. However, as we show below, pregnancy discrimination charges contain fewer co-occurring issues and bases compared to other forms of sex discrimination.


Timing of allegations

Pregnancy discrimination is frequently a targeted response to the charging party’s pregnancy status. Whereas other forms of discrimination may develop over time with escalating incidences, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy happens relatively quickly.

Table 2: Time Frame of Pregnancy and Other Sex-Based Allegations
  Percent of Pregnancy Allegations Percent of Other (Non-Pregnancy) Sex Based Allegations
1 Day 53% 44%
2 Days - 2 Weeks 6% 4%
2 Weeks - 2 Months 13% 10%
2-6 Months 17% 17%
6 Months - 1 Year 8% 13%
More Than 1 Year 4% 12%


Table 4 displays the breakdown of the number of days between when the alleged discriminatory behavior began and ended.  The average duration of discriminatory behavior based on pregnancy is about 2.5 months (75 days), however the median is 0 days, compared to the average for other sex-based discrimination is around 6 months (180 days) with median of 22 days. Nearly 60% of pregnancy discrimination continues for less than 2 weeks. This aligns with previous research of pregnancy discrimination cases that has found women are frequently fired on the spot or shortly after they disclose their pregnancy status to their employers.41 Although there are some pregnancy discrimination charges with long durations, in some cases longer than the pregnancy itself, these are charges that allege multiple forms of discrimination, which may have continued after the pregnancy. For example, if a woman of color alleges both pregnancy and race discrimination, the race discrimination may continue after the pregnancy.

On average, women experience other sex-based discrimination for longer periods of time than pregnancy discrimination before filing a discrimination charge. This may also reflect the law for other forms of sex discrimination. For example, the law regarding sexual harassment in the workplace does not prohibit “isolated incidents that are not very serious,” but regards harassment as illegal when it is severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would consider it a hostile work environment.42

Examining the timing of allegations also reveals when the alleged discriminatory behavior occurred. Of particular interest is whether employer responses occur before or after the target files a formal charge. Comparing the date when the alleged discriminatory action occurred and the date the target initially contacted the EEOC, we find that the vast majority (98%) of all alleged Title VII discrimination occurs before the target contacts the EEOC or FEPA, rather than as a response to the employee filing a discrimination charge.

The EEOC charge data does not report if employees raised their discrimination concerns with their employer prior to contacting the EEOC. Prior research on sexual harassment suggests that only about a third of people who perceive discrimination raise the issue with someone in their workplace.43 Since the period of pregnancy discrimination is so much shorter and firing happens fairly quickly in many instances, we suspect there are few opportunities for recourse with the employer. The 23% of pregnancy discrimination charges that report retaliation are likely to include this group of workers who first looked for redress internally from their employer.

In only 3% of all sex-based discrimination cases does employer retaliation occur after the target contacts the EEOC or FEPA. This is true for pregnancy charges that contain a retaliation allegation, other sex-based charges, and sexual harassment charges. This confirms our interpretation that most women experience retaliation after raising concerns with their employer, but that women who experience pregnancy discrimination are less likely to challenge, or have time to challenge, their employer over their treatment before filing a pregnancy related discrimination charge with the EEOC or FEPA.


Co-occuring bases

Table 2 shows the co-occurring bases for other (non-pregnancy) sex-based charges filed by women and for pregnancy discrimination charges. Nearly half (47%) of pregnancy discrimination allegations are filed exclusively on the basis of pregnancy. The most common co-occurring bases are sex (24% of pregnancy charges also include another sex-based charge), retaliation (23% of pregnancy charges), and disability (17% of pregnancy charges).

It is much more common for other (non-pregnancy) sex-based charges to contain addi- tional co-occurring bases. Only 25% of other sex-based charges are filed exclusively on the basis of sex. Over half (51%) of all other sex-based charges filed by women also include a retaliation charge, 24% include a race/color charge, and 18% include an age discrimination charge. Compared to other (non-pregnancy) sex-based charges filed by women, pregnancy- based charges have a much lower rate of retaliation—only 23% of pregnancy-based charges include a retaliation charge compared to 51% of other sex-based charges.

Table 3: Co-occurring Discrimination Bases
  Pregnancy Charges Other (Non-Pregnancy) Sex Based Charges
Single Basis 47% 25%
Basis Type    
Pregnancy 100% 0%
Sex 24% 100%
Race/Color 9% 24%
Religion 1% 3%
National Origin 3% 8%
Age 1% 18%
Retaliation 23% 51%
Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity Less than 1% 2%
Disability 17% 11%
Other Basis 4% 4%
Number of Charges 26,650 131,304


The lower rate of co-occurring bases may reflect the immediate salience of pregnancy status.44 Whereas non-pregnancy-based sex discrimination may develop insidiously over time, once the employee discloses her pregnancy status it often quickly results in job loss. The high rate of firing based on pregnancy status may make employer retaliation less common since the employment relationship is ended relatively quickly upon the employer learning of the pregnancy. Previous research has also found that pregnancy discrimination cases typically result in an employee losing her job once she reports her pregnancy to her employer.45


Co-occuring issues

Pregnancy discrimination charges are distinct from other charges of sex discrimination in that they are more commonly filed on a single basis and issue. Targets of pregnancy discrimination typically allege being fired as a result of their pregnancy. Table 3 shows the issues alleged for other sex-based charges filed by women and for pregnancy-based charges. Pregnancy charges are also more likely than other sex-based charges to include only one issue—46% of pregnancy charges include only one issue compared to 30% of other sex-based charges. This may reflect the more immediate response to pregnancy discrimination compared to other forms of discrimination–women report their pregnancy to their employer and subsequently lose their jobs. Of the charges filed on just one issue, the vast majority (71%) allege discharge.

In a study of pregnancy discrimination charges filed in Ohio, Byron and Roscigno also find high rates of firing in pregnancy discrimination charges.46 They find that employers typically try to justify these firings by vilifying the employee or amplifying purportedly meritocratic policies or business/financial concerns. Employers, in such cases, tend to emphasize concerns about the target’s anticipated undependability due to family responsibilities and question their commitment to the job. A majority (75%) of plaintiffs in the reviewed cases asserted their job performance was questioned only after disclosing their pregnancies to their employers.47 Employers also amplified “neutral meritocratic” policies as a way to fire pregnant employees, despite protections provided by law.48 For example, in one case an employer insisted that all employees were covered by the same “neutral” policy where work related injuries were accommodated, but pregnancy was not.49

Table 4: Time Frame of Pregnancy and Other Sex Based Allegations
  Pregnancy Charges Other (Non-Pregnancy) Sex Based Charges
Single Issue 46% 30%
Issue Type    
Discharge 68% 48%
Terms and Conditions 28% 31%
Harassment 17% 30%
Other Issue 16% 18%
Reasonable Accommodation 12% 4%
Discipline 11% 14%
Constructive Discharge 5% 11%
Wages 5% 11%
Demotion 4% 4%
Hiring 3% 4%
Intimidation 3% 6%
Promotion 3% 8%
Sexual Harassment 3% 32%
Suspension 3% 4%
Benefits 2% 2%
Layoffs 2% 2%
Number of Charges 26,650 131,304


Pregnancy discrimination charges are also three times more likely than other sex-based charges to allege that the employer did not provide a reasonable accommodation (12% versus 4% of charges). While the EEOC’s charge data do not contain information on what types of accommodation were requested, qualitative reviews of pregnancy discrimination charges have found that women most often request relief from heavy lifting, light duty (temporary reassignment to a different task), other physical restrictions such as no sitting or standing for long period of time, or periodic rest breaks.50 When these requests are denied, the consequences can be severe, especially when women work in physically demanding jobs such as in factories, restaurants, and grocery stores. The New York Times reviewed instances in which women had been denied work accommodations and found that women subsequently suffered miscarriages, experienced premature labor, or even stillbirth.51


Contexts That Produce Pregnancy Discrimination

This section examines the workplace contexts that are more likely to produce pregnancy discrimination charges. We focus on industry and firm characteristics by matching the discrimination charge data to EEO-1 employer reports. The EEOC collects annual data for private sector employers on the EEO-1 survey. Private employers with 100 or more employees and federal contractors with 50 or more employees and a contract of at least $50,000 are required to submit an EEO-1 report. The EEO-1 data include establishment-level records of the employer’s name and address, industry, federal contractor status, and employment totals by race, sex, and occupation. By matching the charge data to the EEO-1 employer report, we can compare the makeup of establishments charged with pregnancy discrimination to those who were not charged. For more information on the matching process, see the matching appendix.

Figure 1: Discribution of Pregnancy and Other Sex-Based Charges by Industry



Although about half of all case processing reports are missing information on the industry of the workplace, we have found that industry appears to be missing randomly.52 Thus, examining the distribution of charges by industry only for charges with industry information is not biased by the missing industry information. Figure 1 shows the distribution of pregnancy discrimination charges by industry compared to other sex-based charges filed by women. The majority of pregnancy discrimination charges are filed in only a few industries: health care, retail trade, and accommodation and food services. These are all industries with high levels of female employment and many low wage employees.

Prior research has found that women in low wage jobs are particularly vulnerable to pregnancy discrimination.53 Low wage jobs are typically more physically demanding and thus require accommodations for pregnancy. At the same time, these jobs are also the most inflexible and least likely to offer employees paid sick, vacation, or medical leaves.54 Unfortunately, the EEOC charge data do not contain information on the earnings or occupation of the charging party.

Health care and the social insurance industry account for the largest portion of pregnancy discrimination charges, producing nearly twice as many pregnancy discrimination charges as other sex-based charges. Although on average a high wage industry, many women in health care work as nursing care assistants and domestic care aides with median hourly earnings of $11.83 and $10.16 respectively.55 This work is very physically demanding, often involving the necessary care of bathing, dressing, feeding, and moving patients. In fact, nursing assistants are 3.5 times as likely to be injured on the job as an average U.S worker.56 The physical nature of these jobs may explain why pregnancy discrimination charges are filed so often in the health care industry.57

Industries vary by their gender and age composition, and thus the number of pregnant workers at risk for discrimination. This affects the rate at which we would expect industries to produce pregnancy discrimination. Given that charges in our dataset only represent those who chose to pursue a charge, we have no way of knowing if rates of reporting reflect underlying rates of discrimination or are also influenced by industry variation in the quality of managerial responses to internal complaints. Acknowledging these limitations, we calculate rates of pregnancy discrimination charges by industry to the EEOC and the state FEPAs by dividing the number of pregnancy discrimination charges by an estimate of the number of pregnant workers in the industry.58

Figure 2: Pregnancy Discrimination Rate by Percent Female in Industry


In figure 2, we graph the estimated pregnancy discrimination rate against the proportion female in that industry. Transportation and warehousing has the largest pregnancy discrimination rate followed by wholesale trade, utilities, and manufacturing. These industries tend to include physically demanding jobs, which are likely to require an accommodation during pregnancy.  For example,  in its expos´e on pregnancy discrimination,  The New York Times interviewed workers in an XPO Logistics warehouse in Tennessee where multiple women suffered miscarriages after their accommodation requests were denied.59

As figure 2 shows,  the estimated rate of pregnancy discrimination tends to decrease as the proportion female in the industry increases. Male dominated industries are less likely to employ a pregnant woman, but more likely to fire her when her pregnancy becomes known.



Workplaces, like industries, vary in their gender composition and their risk of producing pregnancy discrimination. To compare workplaces that are charged with pregnancy discrimination to workplaces that are not charged with pregnancy discrimination, we match establishments in our charge dataset with employer filed EEO-1 forms (for more information on this process, see the matching appendix).

Previous literature has found that women’s risk of sex discrimination, and in particular sexual harassment, increases with the share of men in the workplace.60 However, as we have already seen, pregnancy discrimination is a different form of sex discrimination and may not follow the same pattern. Our analysis finds that workplaces charged with pregnancy discrimination tend to be more female dominated compared to establishments not charged with pregnancy discrimination. Consistent with this pattern, in a study of pregnancy discrimination charges filed in Ohio, Byron and Roscigno find that “plaintiffs of pregnancy-based firing discrimination were more likely to be fired from female-dominated establishments and female-dominated occupations”.61 We assume that much of this higher rate of pregnancy discrimination charges in more female workplaces reflects, as we saw for industry, that there are more women who become pregnant in these workplaces.

Research on pregnancy discrimination litigation has found that plaintiffs typically allege the discrimination they experience was from their supervisors, rather than their coworkers.62 As such, the composition of management in a workplace may also be an important factor influencing the incidence of pregnancy discrimination. One might expect that more female managers in a workplace may help protect women from pregnancy discrimination.

Workplaces with more female managers, also tend to have more female workers overall. In order to control for the number of women at risk of facing pregnancy discrimination, we examine the number of women in a workplace and the gender composition of management. Figure 4 charts the proportion of managers who are female against the number of women in the workplace (on a logarithmic scale) for charged and non-charged establishments. After controlling for the overall number of women in a workplace, establishments charged with pregnancy discrimination tend to have a smaller proportion of managers who are female. This is observable in the scatter of red dots tending to lie below the blue dots in figure 4. Only in workplaces with very few female employees is there a pattern of higher pregnancy discrimination associated with more women managers. Generally, more male managers is associated with more pregnancy discrimination. It appears that more women in management may help prevent pregnancy discrimination.

Figure 3: Mean Proportion Female in Charged and Non-Charged Establishments: Pregnancy and Sexual Harassment Discrimination


Outcomes of Pregnancy Discrimination Charges

There are several routes to resolving employer discrimination charges, some of which can potentially lead to monetary and other benefits for the charging party. In many cases, the charge will be resolved through mediation before an investigation occurs or settled during the investigation.

Charges not settled in mediation proceed through the EEOC investigation process. If the EEOC finds reasonable cause that discrimination occurred, the parties are invited to participate in conciliation discussions to resolve the charge prior to litigation. If conciliation fails, the EEOC may decide to litigate, although this is a rare event. However, the rarity of litigation may benefit the charging parties in terms of saved time and emotional duress, as plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases win less than 25 percent of district court cases.63The outcomes examined in this section reflect discrimination charges in which the charging party did not withdraw her charge and thus proceeded through mediation, negotiation/settlement, or conciliation.

Table 5 shows the percent of charges filed by women that received any (monetary or nonmonetary) benefit by discrimination basis. Among non-pregnancy-based charges filed by women, between 16 and 22 percent of charges received a benefit.64 Twenty-six percent of pregnancy charges received some benefit, the highest percent of all types of discrimination filed by women. This may be a result of the often direct and blatant nature of pregnancy discrimination, which may make employers more likely to settle disputes in favor of the charging party.


Table 5: Percent of Women Who Received a Benefit by Discrimination Basis
Basis Percent Received Benefit
Pregnancy 26%
Sex 22%
Disability 20%
Retaliation 20%
Other Basis 17%
Religion 17%
National Origin 17%
Age 17%
Race/Color 16%
Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity 16%


Most people who file discrimination charges do not receive any monetary or workplace benefit. At the same time, pregnancy charges stand out as more likely than other forms of discrimination to secure some benefit. About a quarter of women who file pregnancy charges and do not withdraw their charge, receive some benefit under this process. Black women are slightly less likely to receive a benefit. While 26% of all pregnancy discrimination charges receive a benefit, 25% of those filed by white women receive a benefit compared to 23% filed by black women, and 25% filed by women of other races.65

The charges that proceed through mediation, conciliation, or (more rarely) court processes typically result in no compensation or a modest monetary compensation for the charging party. Very few cases lead to mandated changes at the workplace level that could help foster a more supportive environment for working mothers (see table 6). Almost 3 out of 4 (74%) pregnancy discrimination charges produce no benefit of either kind for the charging party.

Twenty-three percent of pregnancy discrimination charges produce some monetary benefit for the charging party, and 11% result in a required workplace-level change.  Nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) pregnancy charges do not lead to any required change in employer behavior or managerial practices.  Only eight percent of pregnancy discrimination charges lead to both a monetary benefit for the charging party and some negotiated change in workplace managerial practices.

Table 6: Benefit Type for Pregnancy Discrimination Charges
Benefit Number  Percent
Monetary Benefit 3,024 15%
Monetary and Workplace benefit 1,589 8%
Workplace Change Only 621 3%
No Benefit 14,886 74%


Overall, charging parties who received monetary compensation for pregnancy charges were awarded $17,601 on average,  with a median award of only $7,500.   This is slightly less than the approximate $21,100 received on average for other sex-based charges filed by women. Large monetary benefits are very rare—less than 1% of charges resulted in monetary compensation over $100,000 (table 7). The amount of compensatory and punitive damages available to a target is limited based on the size of her employer.  According to the EEOC, the limit ranges from $50,000 for employers with 15-50 employees to $300,000 for employers with more than 500 employees.66 Thus, the benefits received tend to be much lower than the maximum benefit available.

Compensation was higher for the 19% of those who filed a pregnancy discrimination charge and were represented by legal counsel ($33,427 on average). However, lawyers typically get a third of any settlement, reducing the added monetary value of representation. There is both a small monetary benefit to securing legal counsel and a higher probability (34% vs. 21%) of receiving a monetary settlement. It is unclear if this represents the efficacy of legal representation or that lawyers are more likely to take cases with a high probability of success.67

Those represented by counsel are also more likely to allege job loss and retaliation. While 20% of those not represented by counsel alleged employer retaliation, 38% of those with representation alleged employer retaliation. Additionally, 72% of those not represented by legal counsel alleged job loss compared to 83% of those represented by counsel.

Table 7: Monetary Benefits for Pregnancy Discrimination Charges by Legal Representation Status
  All Pregnancy Charges Represented by Counsel Not Represented by Counsel
$0 77% 66% 79%
1-5,000 9% 4% 10%
5,001-15,000 7% 12% 6%
15,001-30,000 4% 9% 3%
30,001-100,000 2% 7% 2%
100,001+ Less than 1% 2% Less than 1%
Average $17,601 $33,427 $13,527
Median $7,500 $17,500 $5,500


Overall, charging parties in pregnancy discrimination complaints typically receive modest or no monetary settlements and no change in their workplace. Those who lost their job are only very slightly more likely to receive a monetary benefit, an average of $17,601, which is unlikely to make up for the economic cost of the job loss, much less the added expenses of raising a child.

The benefit the target receives appears to depend on the process of resolving the charge. Table 8 reports the breakdown of benefit outcomes by three types of charge resolution processes. Settlement with benefits reflect instances where charges are “settled with benefits to the charging party as warranted by evidence of record”, successful conciliations are instances where “charges with reasonable cause determination [by the EEOC are] closed after successful conciliation”, and withdrawal with benefits are instances where the “charge is withdrawn by charging party upon receipt of desired benefits. The withdrawal may take place after a settlement or after the employer grants the appropriate benefit to the charging party”.68

Overall, successful conciliations result in the largest monetary benefits as well as a very large proportion of workplace benefits. We think the latter is a particularly important result, as this is an opportunity to change employer behavior. Monetary damages are so low that we do not think they represent much of a threat to most employers. Unfortunately, successful conciliation agreements are much less common than the other closure types, only about 2% of closed charges ended in a successful conciliation compared to 15% that ended in a settlement with benefits and 13% that ended in a withdrawal with benefits.

Importantly, the conciliation process takes considerably longer. While on average pregnancy discrimination charges are closed in 280 days, successful conciliation cases take on average 660 days to close compared with withdrawals and settlements which each take approximately 220 days on average to close. If women do not reveal their pregnancy until the middle or end of the first trimester, which seems likely, then most resolutions happen after the pregnancy has ended.

Table 8: Pregnancy Discrimination Benefits by Closure Type for all Charges with Benefits


Settlement with Benefits

Successful Conciliation

Withdrawal with Benefits

Monetary Benefit




Monetary and Workplace Benefit




Workplace Only




Average Monetary Amount




Median Monetary Amount




Average closure time (days)





Conclusions and Recommendations

While prior research has tended to focus on a small subset of pregnancy discrimination charges, or those charges that proceed to litigation, our report examines all pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the EEOC or state FEPAs between 2012 and 2016. Our analysis highlights pregnancy discrimination as a unique form of sex discrimination. While other forms of sex discrimination tend to develop insidiously over time, pregnancy discrimination is often a quick and direct managerial response to the discovery of an employee’s pregnancy and typically results in rapid job loss. Though more likely to result in benefits to the charging party than other forms of discrimination, only a quarter of charges result in benefits—typically a modest monetary amount, and rarely required changes in managerial practices.

We find that male dominated industries tend to have higher rates of pregnancy discrimination charges. Our unique data set matched to the EEO-1 employer reports allows us to examine the gender composition of the workforce and managers of workplaces charged with pregnancy discrimination compared to workplaces not charged with discrimination. Unlike sexual harassment, which is more common in male dominated workplaces, female dominated workplaces are more likely to be charged with pregnancy discrimination. We also find evidence that, once accounting for the total number of women in the workplace, establishments charged with pregnancy discrimination tend to have more male mangers. These findings are an initial step to better understanding the contexts of pregnancy discrimination, which our future work will explore with more formal econometric modeling.

Our report provides a starting point for further research to better understand the patterns and contexts of employer pregnancy discrimination. However, some questions raised from this work suggest changes to the current EEOC data collection process. For example, the current charge discrimination data does not collect occupation, current wage/benefits, or job tenure data from the charging party, which would provide a more nuanced analysis of women experiencing pregnancy and other forms of discrimination. The EEOC also does not collect information on the alleged source of discrimination, such as co-workers, supervisors, personnel departments, or upper managers/owners. Since a goal of EEOC enforcement is to reduce the incidence of discrimination in the U.S. labor force, such data would permit a clearer picture of the actors and contexts involved. Such data collection would directly enhance the EEOC’s ability to understand and redress employment discrimination.

The somewhat higher monetary damages associated with a successful conciliation process and the much higher rates of workplace benefits argues for an expansion of the conciliation process. Unfortunately, this process is expensive and the EEOC currently lacks the resources to expand these efforts. One potential solution would be for conciliation agreements to include a payment to the EEOC to cover expenses. Such practices are widespread in other regulatory agencies and would shift the funding burden from taxpayers to the employers charged with discrimination.

Overall, our report reinforces that pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent problem for many women in their workplaces. Pregnancy discrimination is partially rooted in business practices and enduring cultural beliefs regarding women, particularly pregnant women. Though there are legal structures in place intended to protect pregnant workers, it is important to consider whether these policies do enough. As described earlier, some activists argue that the current Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not do enough to protect pregnant workers and argue for a federal level Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would explicitly require pregnancy to be accommodated to the same degree as any other disability.

Passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is an important first step in closing the legal coverage gap between the PDA and the ADA for pregnant workers and will expand the legal coverage available to women who experience pregnancy discrimination. However, it may not be enough to truly help pregnant workers retain employment during and after their pregnancies. Some have argued that adopting the ADA reasonable accommodation model, which requires employers to provide accommodations, may have unintended consequences for pregnant workers. Because this model requires employers to provide accommodations, employers may seek to avoid these costs by not employing pregnant women or women who may become pregnant.69 As more states implement state level PWFA laws, future research should examine whether these laws affect the number and outcomes of charges filed, and whether they help pregnant women remain employed.



1 National partnership for women & families. Listening to Mothers: The Experiences of Expecting and New Mothers in the Workplace. work/resources/economic- justice/pregnancy-discrimination/listening-to-mothers-experiences-of-expecting-and-new- mothers.pdf. 2014.
2 Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Natalie Kitroeff. Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination. October 21, 2018. url: https : / / www . nytimes . com / interactive / 2018 / 10 / 21 / business/pregnancy-discrimination-miscarriages.html.
3 Natalie Kitroeff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg. Pregnancy Discrimination is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies.   February  8,  2019.   url:   https:// business/pregnancy-discrimination.html.
4 Natalie Kitroeff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg. Planned Parenthood is Accused of Mistreating Pregnant Employees.   December  20,  2018.   url:   https:// / 20 / business/ planned- parenthood-pregnant-employee-discrimination-women.html.
5 Elizabeth Gedmark Bakst Dina and Sarah Brafman. Long Overdue: It Is Time for the Federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Tech. rep. A Better Balance.  
6 Deborah Dinner. “Recovering the LaFleur Doctrine”. In: Yale JL & Feminism 22 (2010), p. 343
7 Joanna L Grossman. Nine to Five: How Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Continue to Define the American Workplace. Cambridge University Press, 2016.
8 Geduldig v. Aiello. 417 U.S. 484. 1974.
9 General Electric Co v. Gilbert. 429 U.S. 125. 1976.
10 Grossman, Nine to Five: How Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Continue to Define the American Workplace, op. cit., p. 499.
11 U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. [Online; accessed 9/9/19]. n.d.-a.
12 Ibid.
13 U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Fact Sheet for Small Businesses: Pregnancy Discrimination.   https:// www. eeoc. gov/ eeoc/ publications/ pregnancy_factsheet. cfm.   [Online; accessed 9/9/19]. n.d.-b.
14 Gillian Thomas. Because of sex: one law, ten cases, and fifty years that changed American women’s lives at work. Picador USA, 2017.
15 U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), Fact Sheet for Small Businesses: Pregnancy Discrimination, op. cit.
16 Michelle D Deardorff and James G Dahl. Pregnancy Discrimination and the American Worker. Springer, 2016, p. 131.
17 Ibid., pp. 131-132.
18 See for example Deardorff and Dahl, Pregnancy Discrimination and the American Worker or Dinner, Strange Bedfellow, or Thomas, Because of sex
19 Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc. 135 S. Ct. 1338. 2015.
20 Thomas, Because of sex: one law, ten cases, and fifty years that changed American women’s lives at work, op. cit., p. 227.
21 Bakst and Brafman, Long Overdue: It Is Time for the Federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, op. cit.
22 National Partnership for Women & Families. Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers: State and Local Laws. work/resources/economic- justice/ pregnancy- discrimination/reasonable- accommodations- for- pregnant- workers- state- laws.pdf. [Online; accessed 7/21/20]. May 2020.
23 Lynda Lvonne Laughlin. Maternity leave and employment patterns of first-time mothers: 1961-2008. Tech. rep. US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, 2011.
24 National partnership for women & families, Listening to Mothers: The Experiences of Expecting and New Mothers in the Workplace, op. cit.
25 Ibid.
26 Carly McCann, Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, and Lee Badgett. “Employers’ Responses to Sexual Harass- ment”. In: Center for Employment Equity (2018).
27 Charges filed with either the EEOC or a FEPA are dual filed, so the EEOC database includes charges filed with a local FEPA, but the FEPA retains the charge for processing. In the course of this research we discovered that California does not report all complaints to the EEOC. Many of the charges filed with FEPAs and submitted to the EEOC do not include data on the race, sex, or other demographic characteristics of the charging party. For more on FEPAs, see U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Fair Employment Practices Agencies(FEPAs) and Dual Filing. [Online; accessed 9/7/19]. n.d.-c
28 U.S.  EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).  Resolving a Charge.  https://www.eeoc. gov/employers/resolving.cfm. [Online; accessed 9/7/19]. n.d.-d. 
29 U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Charges (Charges Filed with EEOC). cfm. [Online; accessed 9/7/19]. n.d.-e.
30 U.S.  EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).  Definition of Terms.  https://www.eeoc. gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/definitions.cfm. [Online; accessed 9/7/19]. n.d.-f.
31 In some states, charges filed with the FEPA are given the right to appear in a public hearing presided over by a public law judge. The law judge evaluates the case and issues a final order either dismissing or upholding the case. If the case is upheld, the law judge also decides whether to issue mandates.
32 Among charges in which the EEOC believes discrimination occurred and conciliation was unsuccessful, the EEOC files a lawsuit in less than 8% of charges. See U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).  What You Should Know:  The EOC, Conciliation, and Litigation. eeoc/newsroom/wysk/conciliation_litigation.cfm. [Online; accessed 9/7/19]. n.d.-g
33 U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Fact Sheet on Recent EEOC Pregnancy- Discrimination Litigation. https : / / www . eeoc . gov / fact - sheet - recent - eeoc - pregnancy - discrimination-litigation. [Online; accessed 9/9/19]. n.d.-k.
34 Deardorff and Dahl, Pregnancy Discrimination and the American Worker, op. cit., p. 64.
35 Ibid., p. 65.
36 Ibid., p. 67.
37 Less than 1% of charges in our database were filed by men. These charges likely represent cases were men filed charges due to benefits denied to their pregnant spouses. In their analysis of pregnancy discrimination lawsuits, Deardorff and Dahl also find about 1% of cases had male litigants, generally involving spousal benefits.  Because we compare pregnancy to other sex-based charges filed by women, we dropped these charges in our analysis. Results are not sensitive to this restriction.
38 Data on labor force participation come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. See Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. Employment status of the civillian noninstitutional population by age, sex, and race. [Online; accessed 9/7/19]. January 18, 2019
39 Julie Vogtman. Nearly One in Five Working Mothers of Very young Children work in Low-Wage Jobs. April 12,2017. url: . one- in- five- working- mothers- of- very- young-children-work-in-low-wage-jobs/.
40 Nora Ellmann and Jocelyn Frye. Efforts to Combat Pregnancy Discrimination. November 2,2018. url:
. combat- pregnancy-discrimination/.
41 See Reginald A Byron and Vincent J Roscigno. “Relational power, legitimation, and pregnancy dis- crimination”. In: Gender & society 28.3 (2014), pp. 435–462 and Stephanie Bornstein. Poor, pregnant, and fired: Caregiver discrimination against low-wage workers. Center for Worklife Law, 2011
42 U.S.  EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).  Sexual Harassment.  https://www.eeoc. gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm. [Online; accessed 9/7/19]. n.d.-h.  Additionally, although there are limitations on when a target must file a charge (typically within 180 or 300 days of the incident), the EEOC considers all incidents of harassment,  even if the earlier harassment occurred more than 300 days earlier. For more information, see U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Time Limits For Filing A Charge.   [Online;  accessed  9/7/19]. n.d.-i
43 Chai R. Feldblum and Victoria A. Lipnic. Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. Tech. rep. U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
44 Additionally, pregnant women tend to be younger and heterosexual, thus removing some of the possible co-occurring bases.
45 Deardorff and Dahl, Pregnancy Discrimination and the American Worker, op. cit., p. 62.
46 Byron and Roscigno, “Relational power, legitimation, and pregnancy discrimination”, op. cit.
47 Ibid., p. 448.
48 Ibid., p. 452.
49 Deardorff and Dahl, Pregnancy Discrimination and the American Worker, op. cit., p. 453.
50 Jamie Dolkas Farrell Noreen and Mia Munro. Expecting a Baby, Not A Lay-Off: Why Federal Law Should Require The Reasonable Accommodation of Pregnant Workers. Tech. rep. Equal Rights Advocates, 2012.
51 Silver-Greenberg and Kitroeff, Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination, op. cit.
52 Data are missing at random  when there  is  no systematic correlation with any  other know trait  (see Daniel F Heitjan and Srabashi Basu. “Distinguishing missing at random and missing completely at random”. In: The American Statistician 50.3 (1996), pp. 207–213). Charges that were missing industry information tended to have the same characteristics examined in this report as charges with industry present (see missing industry appendix at end of report).
53 Bornstein, Poor, pregnant, and fired: Caregiver discrimination against low-wage workers, op. cit.
54 See Bakst and Brafman, Long Overdue: It Is Time for the Federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, op. cit.; Bornstein, Poor, pregnant, and fired: Caregiver discrimination against low-wage workers, op. cit.; and Joan Williams and Heather Boushey. “The three faces of work-family conflict: The poor, the professionals, and the missing middle”. In: Available at SSRN 2126314 (2010)
55 Elyse Shaw, Ariane Hegewisch, Emma Williams-Baron, and Barbara Gault. Undervalued and Underpaid in America. Tech. rep. Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
56 Ibid., p. 11.
57 Unfortunately, the EEOC charge data do not collect information on occupation.
58 We first took the total number of pregnancy discrimination charges in the EEOC’s 2012-2016 database. Industry is missing in 61% of charges. Assuming that industry is missing at random we inflate each industry count by dividing by .61. From the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) we calculate the percent of pregnant women working in each industry. We use Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates of full-time equivalent employees in each industry. The BEA uses employer data to adjust for probable self-report error in industry of employment in household surveys such as the ACS. We also reason that discrimination charges are less likely from part-time employees, making full-time equivalent a more attractive operationalization of total industry employment. We estimate the employment for pregnant workers by multiplying total female BEA employment by NHIS 2012-2016, divided by total five-year full-time pregnant worker employment, times 100,000. Our estimated denominator—the number of pregnant women in an industry —has a larger standard error for industries with few female employees in the NHIS data. This likely explains the more dispersed pattern for industries with low female representation in figure 2.
59 Silver-Greenberg and Kitroeff, Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination, op. cit.
60 Heather McLaughlin, Christopher Uggen, and Amy Blackstone. “Sexual harassment, workplace author- ity, and the paradox of power”. In: American sociological review 77.4 (2012), pp. 625–647.
61 Byron and Roscigno, “Relational power, legitimation, and pregnancy discrimination”, op. cit., p. 444.
62 Deardorff and Dahl, Pregnancy Discrimination and the American Worker, op. cit., p. 75. 
63 Ibid., p. 76.
64 Outcomes were analyzed only for allegations that were closed for reasons other than administrative closure, 77% of all Title VII charges filed by women were non-administrative closure charges and 75% of pregnancy charges were closed by December 31, 2016.
65 Race is frequently unreported in the charge database, 40% of pregnancy charges are missing race infor- mation, 29% of these charges receive a benefit. 
66 U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Remedies For Employment Discrimination. [Online; accessed 9/7/19]. n.d.-j.
67 Past research reports that the employment lawyers reject up to 90% of potential discrimination cases (See Ellen Berrey, Robert L Nelson, and Laura Beth Nielsen. Rights on trial: How workplace discrimination law perpetuates inequality. University of Chicago Press, 2017) 
68 U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), Definition of Terms, op. cit. 
69 Jennifer Bennett Shinall. “The Pregnancy Penalty”. In: Minn. L. Rev. 103 (2018), p. 749.


View Fuzzy Matching Appendix and Industry Appendix