Former Staffers Accuse Planned Parenthood of Discriminatory Practices Against Pregnant Employees
The New York Times reported Thursday that some former staff members of Planned Parenthood have accused the women’s health organization of treating pregnant employees unfairly. Among the accusations are claims of mistreatment, overworking, demotions during maternity leave, and even firings.
Former medical assistant at Planned Parenthood Ta’Lisa Hairston told the Times that while she was giving advice to pregnant women about frequent rest at work, her requests for breaks were allegedly ignored by her supervisors. Hairston said that when she informed the human resources department at her White Plains, New York, clinic that her high blood pressure was threatening her pregnancy, her managers failed to heed the requests. High blood pressure can result in a condition known as preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy condition that can lead to vomiting, headaches, and swelling, and in extreme cases, death.
The Times also reports that former employees have accused Planned Parenthood of discriminatory hiring decisions, including not hiring pregnant job candidates and pushing new mothers out of their jobs completely after they gave birth. These accusations were provided to the newspaper by both current and former employees in California, Texas, North Carolina, and New York.
One hiring manager in California told The Times that supervisors at one Planned Parenthood location openly discussed whether or not a potential internal promotion candidate might get pregnant in the future, and decided not to promote the staff member. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal to make hiring decisions based on a candidate’s potential for having children in the future. The Times also reports that Planned Parenthood does not generally offer maternity leave to employees, instead allowing them to take short-term disability leave instead.
“I believe we must do better than we are now,” president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Dr. Leana Wen, said in a statement. “It’s our obligation to do better, for our staff, for their families, and for our patients.” Wen also told the paper that the organization is investigating the allegations reported by the Times, and is pricing out the cost of paid maternity benefits to employees nationwide. But for a non-profit under threat of losing federal funding, maternity benefits may be a difficult sell.
Christine Charbonneau, a regional office exec for the organization in Washington state, told The Times that, last year, she investigated the cost of offering full maternity leave benefits to staff in her region. According to Charbonneau, one year’s worth of maternity benefits in her region would cost the organization $2 million — the same cost as operating one of their clinics for an entire year.
“It is easy to accuse someone of hypocrisy if you’re not the one trying to find $2 million out of thin air,” she said. “You try to be the Planned Parenthood that donors expect, and yet it is unattainable.”
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