A conservative, pro-business blogger published a piece on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze decrying accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace. Matt Walsh believes it’s not discrimination for an employer to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women for a variety of really stupid reasons.
The situation in question is a case that’s before the Supreme Court. It involves Peggy Young, a former driver for United Parcel Service (UPS), and UPS. The issue is whether UPS was required to provide Young with a light duty position during her pregnancy, as they would for any other driver with similar problems performing all the duties of a driver (such as being unable to lift 70 pounds due to an injury).
Men cannot get pregnant, so they will never face the situations that pregnant women face.
Walsh believes that pregnancy isn’t like workplace injuries that require temporary special accommodation. He says that men and women are already treated equally when it comes to things like workplace injuries. Where it comes to sexism, he says, point-blank:
None of this has anything to do with ‘sexism.’ I’ve heard many people say something like, ‘well, when a MAN can’t do his job, they accommodate HIM!’ No, when a man can’t do his job they accommodate him as long as it falls under certain guidelines. If a woman’s situation falls under those same guidelines, they would accommodate her as well. Complete equality there. If a human being, man or woman, has an accident on the job and breaks his or her back, they will provide whatever the company policy outlines. If the company policy prescribed different considerations for the same injuries depending on the gender of the injured, then you’d have a case to scream about sexism. [emphasis mine]
This argument is all well and good, except it ignores a very pertinent fact: Pregnancy is something that can’t happen to a man. Ever. Saying that a company will accommodate a woman when her situation falls under the same guidelines as a man’s situation is, in itself, discriminatory, since pregnancy is a condition unique to women, but changes her ability to do parts of her job the same way an injury to a man would.
What men like Walsh clearly don’t see is that men don’t have to worry about what will happen to their jobs if they get pregnant, or to their unborn babies if they’re forced to continue with their current duties, or how they’ll provide for their babies because the company placed them on unpaid leave, or that they’ll have to choose between having a career and having a baby, because they can’t get pregnant!
Furthermore, the EEOC and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act specifically state that companies must provide the same accommodation to pregnant women that they would provide to anybody who is similar in their ability or inability to work. So if a male UPS driver were to get light duty because he hurt his back, and his doctor said he shouldn’t lift more than 20 pounds for a prescribed period of time, then UPS should give a pregnant woman light duty when her doctor has said that she shouldn’t lift more than 20 pounds for the duration of her pregnancy.
Ultimately, this is not about the condition itself. It’s about the ability, or inability, to perform job duties due to a temporary condition. That’s what Walsh, and his ilk, do not understand here. (In fact, there’s very little about this that Walsh understands, but that’s a biggie right there).
Walsh also says that forcing employers to accommodate pregnant women places unnecessary burdens on employers and on women.
Walsh spends a lot of his piece saying that workplace equality already exists and is sufficient, and a victory for Young in this particular case means more burdensome regulations on already overburdened employers (boo-freaking-hoo). The employers are the only ones who can decide whether they’re able to accommodate pregnant women the same way they accommodate someone injured on the job, he says. “When possible, reasonable, and feasible,” are his exact words.
He tries to temper all of his “let employers run amok” nonsense by saying that employers absolutely have a moral obligation to provide pregnant women with every accommodation possible, so long as it’s reasonable and feasible. However, (and this is something else that Walsh and his ilk fail time and again to understand) since when does big business ever do the moral or right thing? The answer is: Only when it’s profitable. It usually isn’t.
UPS is a large, publicly traded corporation; we’re not talking about a small business that’s more likely to do right by its customers and employees because it’s in the owner’s best interests. Publicly traded companies put their shareholder’s short-term profit interests above absolutely everything else (thank you, Milton Friedman). Because of that, they cannot be trusted to self-regulate, to police themselves, and to do the right thing. If they could, and they’d proven that throughout history, there are a lot laws we’d never have even thought of because the need for them would never have been there.
Walsh takes another tack, too, by saying that forcing employers to accommodate pregnant women this way will lead to employers hiring fewer women just so they don’t have to worry about it. That, too, is discrimination, and something women have been fighting against for a very long time.
There’s research showing that employers treat men and women differently, especially pregnant women and women with children. According to research and experts cited in The Atlantic, mothers and would-be mothers face much more discrimination in the workplace than the data from complaints suggests. That “equality” that Walsh is so sure exists, doesn’t.
The “what ifs” Walsh poses in his piece apply to injured men, too, but he conveniently ignores that.
Walsh puts forth a whole lot of “what if” scenarios in which he asks questions like, what happens if UPS has no available desk jobs for a pregnant woman, who should get kicked out of their job so a pregnant woman can have it, what if she’s not as good at it, or can’t do it at all…and so forth. What happens to the people who’ve earned light duty positions? What if, what if, what if…?
What if a male driver who can’t lift due to a back injury, but can still work, is incompetent at desk work? Whose job does he take? Did he earn that position? Did he take it from someone more worthy?
See the problem? Men can ask for reasonable accommodation for a temporary disability, but pregnant women can’t, because giving light duty to pregnant women creates all sorts of logistical problems. However, giving light duty to an injured man does not cause these problems…because “reasons.”
Pregnancy is a choice, and therefore there is no discrimination. Choices have consequences.
What this comes down to is the idea that women choose to get pregnant, and should therefore face the consequences. Walsh says that sometimes we have to choose between our jobs and having a family. He also says that he believes people should have more children sooner. What a contradiction!
In our society, it’s hard to make that choice; one must work to support one’s family. Cost of living compared to wages these days all but requires both parents to work if they’re to be able to afford children. They must also work to support themselves, even without children (and, let’s face it, while big companies like to think they’re doing us a favor by deigning to hire us, very few of us work for the sheer joy of it. We work so we can support ourselves, and our families).
This is a choice men don’t often have to make. When was the last time anybody actually heard someone on the pro-big business side of things say that men sometimes will have to choose between having a family and having a career? Women are currently the only ones expected to make that choice, and deal with the consequences if they make the wrong one.
Walsh has it all wrong. He’s on the outside looking in, and cannot get on the inside; this is a situation that, as a man, he will never face. He literally has no common frame of reference for it, so he literally can’t relate. That fact hampers his ability to empathize (if, indeed, he ever had any empathy for women to begin with).
It would be understandable if he at least made an effort to understand a woman’s perspective, but he doesn’t. His piece is a cold, uncaring and totally incorrect analysis of the situation facing pregnant women in general in our society.
And now you know why.