Taking a Stand Against a 21st Century Scarlet Letter

Today, we filed suit in federal court on behalf of Jennifer Maudlin, a single mother who was fired when her employer learned that she was pregnant. Jennifer's employer – a religiously-affiliated community organization called Inside Out – says that it fired Jennifer for violating its unwritten rule against non-marital sex.

What happened to Jennifer amounts to discrimination based on pregnancy status and gender. Why? Because Inside Out learned about its workers' sexual lives by looking at its women workers' bellies. In fact, Jennifer and other women workers who became pregnant had to hide their bellies for as long as possible because they were terrified of being found out and fired. Unmarried men who had sex, and even those who became fathers, had nothing to fear, because – of course – their bellies wouldn't give them away. In Jennifer's workplace, pregnancy became a "scarlet letter," marking unmarried employees for termination.

The treatment of women workers at Inside Out also subjects women workers to mistreatment based on sex stereotypes. When a person can be thrown out of work because she decides to – or must – take on motherhood alone, what are we as a society saying about her? That she's unworthy of any further association with her coworkers? That she's unfit to participate in economic life? That she doesn't deserve to be able to eat, or pay rent, or buy gas?

Add to that the effects of such discrimination on the children. At least half of children growing up in the U.S. today will spend some if not all of their childhoods in a single-parent family. Single parent families have the highest poverty rate in the country, and the highest rate of lacking health insurance – which in the U.S. is usually provided by an employer. We'd be kidding ourselves to think that employment discrimination against single mothers leaves kids unharmed.

Jennifer's case, and others like it, are reminiscent of a past when women were routinely pushed out of the workplace because of pregnancy. Such discrimination is now illegal, even if religiously motivated. We all have a right to our religious beliefs, but this does not give employers the right to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against their employees.

It's also worth noting that policies like that at Inside Out don't just threaten single mothers. When bosses go so far as to police their employees' off-the-clock, off-site sexual lives, personal privacy goes out the window. With the power to take away one's livelihood, employers wield enormous power over their workers. In Jennifer's case, that power was abused, and we filed suit today to set things right.

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I just find it interesting to note, that if she chose to have an abortion so as not to have a pregnant abdomen, she would still have her job. Is that what her employer would prefer?


Kick that company's arse into the 21th century!

Vicki B

I never lasted through reading the Scarlet Letter, b/c I was too angry that the man got NO punishment and the woman was the only one considered to be disgusting, and the MALE professor didn't want to hear it. Of course.
And I refused to read the rest of the book. I passed the test by talking to a guy about it and answering the way he would have, and got an A for the course.

My friend's husband used to say to her "It's different for boys b/c men don't get pregnant."
She used to reply, "No, but you can usually find one somewhere near the scene of the crime."


I bet the employers call themselves Christians


I handled a pregnancy discrimination case in the l980's titled Crystal Chambers v Omaha Girls Club. It was a race, sex and pregnancy discrimination case. The club had two defenses one public and one secret defense that came out at trial. The first defense was that seeing the pregnant belly of Crystal would cause the members to go out and get pregnant, yet the white married director exposed the girls to her pregnant belly and she got six weeks of maternity leave. Crystal was fired and immediately after giving her notice of her termination the club board passed a single pregnancy role modeling policy that made single pregnancy and commission of a felony and racial discrimination grounds for discharge.

The secret defense held up in a one party hearing by the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission was that the club was allowed to racially discriminate against black, single, pregnant Crystal Chambers because of the high rate of illegitimacy in the black community.

The white male federal trial judge totally ignored the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and ruled the club could racially discriminate. We lost in court but Chief Judge Donald P. Lay of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote a dissenting opinion for himself and Judges McMillian and Heaney supporting Crystal. He chided Judge C. Arlen Beam for ignoring the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act and ruled that the firing of Crystal and the negative role modeling policy were impermissible segregation.

Chief Judge Lay told a meeting of the Federal Bar Association in D.C. that his decision in Chambers v Omaha Girls Club was one of the 12 most important decisions he wrote on the bench.

We garnered supportive national publicity in the case, and in 2007 I wrote a book about it and the rights of single mothers and their children entitled Women of Courage: The Rights of Single Mothers and Their Children Inspired by Crystal Chambers a New Rosa Parks. It is available on Kindle, Nook and I-tunes. The case was unique because both Crystal and I, her attorney, were single mothers. I am the single mother of twin daughters.

Crystal married Rodney Stewart the father of their daughter Ruthie after the trial and they raised 15 foster teenagers along with Ruthie. The teenagers were white, black and American Indian.

See: YOU TUBE: Women of Courage: The Rights of Single Mothers for my interview with Crystal Chambers Stewart and google etc. Crystal Chambers, Mary Kay Green, Crystal Chambers v Omaha Girls Club, Women of Courage: The Rights of Single Mothers and Their Children Inspired by Crystal Chambers a New Rosa Parks and go to www.marykaygreen.com.

Isn't it shocking that these pregnancy discrimination cases keep increasing 36 years after the passage of the l978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Thank you ACLU Women's Rights Project for your vigilance. Mary Kay Green

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