Addressing Periods at Work
70 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2019 Last revised: 4 Jan 2023
Date Written: 2021
Structural workplace changes are needed to acknowledge, anticipate, and accommodate menstruation, without harming equity or economic security for current and former menstruators. The biological process of menstruation does not stop at work, but workplaces are not designed to support needs related to periods, perimenopause, or menopause. Specifically, some workers who menstruate have needs related to menstrual accommodations like time away from work or access to menstrual products and private and sanitary spaces to dispose of menstrual discharge and the products that absorb them. Workers also have needs related to working free from indignities and harassment because of menstruation. Yet, periods and blood are stigmatized, gendered, and subject to taboos. The corresponding shame, lack of menstrual education, gender composition and power dynamics of workplaces, and overall structural mismatch makes some menstruators susceptible to discrimination and harassment at work.
This article explores this landscape of menstruation, menopause, and work. After identifying and categorizing menstrual needs at work, it analyzes employer-provided policies and existing legal requirements that offer some protections and supports to current and former menstruators at work. It then explores how these existing policies and law fail to comprehensively address menstrual needs or corresponding problems such as absenteeism, lost wages, privacy violations, health implications, harassment, and other menstrual indignities. Building on available menstrual experiences, voluntary employer policies, international models, and analysis of applicable federal law and related litigation, the article recommends public policy interventions to minimize menstrual injustices and acknowledge that menstruation and menopause at work matter.
Keywords: menstruation, menopause, sex, gender, gender identity, disability, age, accommodations, paid leave, discrimination, economic security, employment law, human rights, harassment, unions, intersectionality, public policy, privacy, dignity, health, workplace safety, torts
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation