Book Review: Pregnant Pause: An International Legal Analysis of Maternity Discrimination
American University, Washington College of Law
November 1, 2011
International Journal of Sociology of the Family, Vol. 37, p. 176, 2011
American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2012-12
Professor Kovacic-Fleischer reviewed Pregnant Pause, which collects legal documents relating to workplace discrimination with emphasis on maternity and paternity leave issues. The book suggests that the United States should provide paid maternity leave as most countries do and paternity leave as some countries do. No country provides women and men with equal amounts of paid family leave. Pregnant Pause explains that without maternity leave, women may lose jobs when they have a baby and/or may pay an economic “child penalty.” Pregnant Pause notes that depending on how much or little leave and pay is allocated to men, parental leave policies can either encourage fathers to take part in child raising or can perpetuate the stereotype of mothers as the main caregivers.
In reviewing Pregnant Pause, Professor Kovacic-Fleischer says that it might have delved more into why United States’ leave laws are different from those of most of the world. The United States government does not require any employer to provide employees with paid leave. While many employers do, if they provide leave to mothers beyond disability leave, they must provide fathers with the same. Professor Kovacic-Fleischer therefore notes that the United States applies the “equal treatment” method of defining equality, which requires that the same rules apply to eveyone despite their differing situations. Most other countries apply the “equal opportunity” (also referred to as “special treatment”) method, which adjusts rules to account for peoples’ differences, in this case the reproductive difference between men and women.
Professor Kovacic-Fleischer notes that Pregnant Pause demonstrates the conundrum that policy makers face in deciding whether to choose between equal or special treatment. The United States government treats everyone equally. This results in fewer benefits for all, including mothers who often end up disadvantaged by inadequate leave policies. Most other countries, in contrast, provide generous benefits to mothers, but no comparable benefits to fathers, risking that employers will view women as less desirable workers.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 4
Keywords: pregnancy discrimination, employment discrimination, sex discrimination, equal treatment, equal opportunity, special treatment, international pregnancy laws, international discrimination laws, European Union pregnancy laws, maternity leave, paternity leave, family leave, stereotypesAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 25, 2012
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