I am bound by both conscience and a confidentiality clause in my contract from providing any details. I really need to talk about one issue, though: pregnancy discrimination. There is a federal law against firing or demoting or otherwise discriminating an employee, but the federal law provides an exemption for businesses with fifteen or fewer employees. The state where I work has an even better law–you aren’t exempt unless you have three or fewer employees. Here’s the law, helpfully explained by the Connecticut Network for Legal Aid:
Q: I’m pregnant. Do I have legal rights to protect me in the workplace?
A: Yes. There are state and federal laws that protect you from discrimination because of pregnancy. If you work for an employer (private, public, or employment agency) with 3 or more workers, your employer cannot discriminate against you because of pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions. A pregnancy must be treated the same way as any other temporary medical disability. This means:
- You cannot be fired, denied a job or a promotion simply because you are or may become pregnant.
- You cannot be forced to take a leave because you are pregnant if you are able and willing to work.
- Employers (or potential ones) cannot ask you about your plans to have children or your pregnancy unless this information is directly related to a specific job.
- In general, employers must not treat pregnant employees any differently from other employees. For example, the employer cannot provide health insurance that treats pregnancy and childbirth any differently from other medical conditions.
If I were not the only employee here, I would have a job waiting for me after a state- and federally-mandated maternity leave:
Q: Am I allowed to take a leave of absence?
A: Yes. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the state and federal Family and Medical Leave Acts (FMLA) and CT’s Anti-Discrimination Laws protect eligible employees who need to take leave during or after pregnancy (maternity leave). If an employer offers sick leave or disability leave to its employees, it must permit pregnant employees to use that leave for pregnancyrelated conditions. “Family and medical leave” allows an eligible employee (man or woman) to take an unpaid leave of absence (generally up to 12 or 16 weeks) to care for a child upon the child’s birth or adoption.
Because I am the only employee here, I have access to none of these rights. In New York City, I’ve heard, there is a union for nannies. I belong to no such union, but working conditions in New York really are awful. Access to basic workers’ rights is a problem for many nannies and domestic workers. I asked an expert once, and she had never heard of a maternity clause in a nanny contract. It seems
utterly ridiculous counterintuitive to ignore the possibility that someone who loves children enough to take care of someone else’s kids full-time might want to have one or two of her own.
I’m sure you can piece together what’s happened over hear. Now, I find myself suddenly planning a future career as a stay-at-home-mom. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m already so attached to this baby; I can’t imagine leaving my child in someone else’s care while I go to care for other kids. I’m in shock, a bit.
I have no problem applying for WIC, food stamps (or SNAP, as the program is now called), or welfare/cash assistance. This is precisely what those programs are for. Unfortunately, I do not live in one of the small handful of states that offers short-term disability or unemployment insurance to pregnancy women. If I wanted private short-term insurance, I needed to apply for it before the pregnancy. And I just didn’t know that. It never occurred to me to check. We’ll make it. And it will be worth buying nothing new for ourselves and not visiting relatives outside driving distance. We can do all of that later. We will never get the first years of our child’s life back. And now, one or both of us will be there for every moment.
My mother-in-law has promised to drive up from Long Island to keep me company; I am carrying her only biological grandchild and married to her only son. But we’re friends. Dear friends. And I’ll have time to go to play groups and spend time with the friends I have met here. But other child care providers who work in private homes are not so lucky.
The discrimination I have encountered may be legal, but it is still wrong.