Firings of pregnant women increasing

Recession being used as excuse to lay off expectant mothers before they go on maternity leave
||Last Updated: 04/24/2009

Human rights advocates are seeing an increase in cases of pregnant women being fired by employers across Ontario, who claim hard times are the cause, according to the Toronto Star.

The firings are in all sectors and are happening to women in all kinds of jobs, from high-level positions to low-wage jobs.

"I thought I was the only person this was happening to," Brandi Mather, 21, a hotel housekeeper in Orillia who was laid off in January, told the Star. Though she was told it was because there was a lack of work for her, she found out her boss had overhead co-workers talking about her pregnancy. Now, instead of returning to work after maternity leave, a replacement worker is doing her job.

Mather’s boss initially told her she was laid off because of her pregnancy, but she later changed her story and said Mather did a poor job after she checked out her legal rights.

Women must work 600 hours within the 52 weeks before taking the leave, so being fired after announcing their pregnancy, it risks their maternity leave benefits.

Dental assistant Ann Dunn split her work week between two dentists, one in Courtice, Ont., and one in Bowmanville, Ont. One morning, she told the Bowmanville dentist, for whom she worked one day a week, she was pregnant. A few hours later, the dentist gave her a $300 gift certificate to The Bay and told her job there was over.

The other hired her full-time to allow her to qualify for maternity benefits but Dunn filed a claim with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for discrimination, seeking $10,000 in damages from the Bowmanville dentist.

"If he had said to me, `Things are getting slow in the office and we don't have a lot of hours. Just finish off your three months,' I would have said, `That's fine.' But I didn't have that option. The only option I had was the gift card," Dunn told the Star.

"Employers are crying about the recession and saying, `This is so terrible for us,'" Consuelo Rubio, manager of client services for Ontario's Human Rights Legal Support Centre, told the Star. "Well, what about all these workers who are going through the financial crisis too? The recession is not only affecting employers, it's affecting mothers with children, it's affecting disabled people – even more so because a lot of these people can be even more vulnerable financially."

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