27 July 2020
In late May, a working mom named Dris Wallace filed a complaint to the human resources office at her company. Her manager had been insisting that she keep her toddlers quiet during work calls while working from home during the coronavirus, which she felt was an impossible and discriminatory standard.
A week later, she was fired.
That’s when employment attorney Daphne Delvaux stepped in and filed a lawsuit against Wallace’s company on her behalf.
For Delvaux, who specializes in defending mothers facing discrimination at work — or retaliation for reporting it — this is just another day on the job. According to her, “mom bias” has always been a problem in the corporate world, but the coronavirus has exacerbated it. Businesses are under pressure to cut costs, and workers are terrified of losing work, creating fertile ground for abuse. Since many businesses are reopening while so many day cares and schools remain closed, it will probably get worse before it gets better.
In addition to her work as a litigator, Delvaux runs The Mama Attorney, an organization devoted to educating mothers about their rights at work so that they can protect both their time with their kids and their careers as they transition to motherhood.
Here are a few things she wants working moms to know:
Bias against parents — and specifically mothers — arises out of a workplace culture that favors unencumbered workers, Delvaux said. “Employers like people at work who are a hundred percent committed, so they don’t have any other obligations, no health concerns, they don’t have to take a leave of absence, they don’t have to take breaks, they don’t have to ask for accommodation — the employers favor those employees.” As a result, managers operating under pressure to hit quotas are often really hard on employees with obvious limitations or outside obligations.
With mothers in particular, Delvaux has observed a pervasive perception that they are “less available,” and “too distracted” to do their jobs properly. As a result, a lot of mothers face discrimination either before or after maternity leave, based on the assumption that they will be less committed to their jobs. Some of the mothers Delvaux has represented came back from maternity leave only to be immediately replaced, or let go while their employer continued to post new job openings. Others were muscled out, demoted or forced to cut their maternity leaves short.
Read the full article online here.