• June 20th, 2024
  • Thursday, 10:03:22 AM

Society Is Beginning to Repay a Debt of Gratitude to Latina Mothers Across the Country

Victoria called the Línea de Ayuda and recovered her job. (Photo: A Better Balance)


Javier Sierra


Giving birth is one of humanity’s most generous acts. We all are indebted to our mother for all our lives. Society, however, all too often exacts a steep emotional and economic price for it. Millions of pregnant and recent mothers, including a disproportionate number of Latinas, suffer discrimination, abuses and loss of employment just because they decide to become mothers.


When I became pregnant, I was afraid I would face discrimination, and I did.”


Cristel, employed as an electrician assistant in the New York City construction sector, showed a note from her doctor requiring limitations in lifting weights and climbing stairs due to her pregnancy. Her employer rejected it and suggested that she take a leave of absence. “When I became pregnant, I was afraid I would face discrimination, and I did,” she remembers.


Victoria worked in custodial services in South Carolina. She showed a similar doctor’s note to her employer, asking only not to lift anything heavier than 20 pounds. Her employer responded by forcing her to take a leave without pay. “It’s important to know that having a baby inside your belly is not a sickness”, she says.


Situations like these repeat themselves in the Latino community, who has the country’s highest birthrate—63.5% versus 54.4% of white women— and, tragically, one of the highest mortality rates, including a distressing 44% increase during the pandemic.


“Our research and experience show that pregnant and postpartum Latinas across the country disproportionately confront discrimination, unfair treatment, and are too often forced off the job just because they choose to become mothers,” said Dina Bakst, Co-Founder and Co-President of A Better Balance, a national nonprofit legal advocacy organization dedicated to advancing justice for workers. “All too often, Latinas are unaware that this harsh treatment is illegal and that there is a new, national law that is on their side.”


She talks about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)—which went into effect in June and is already one of the most significant civil rights victories our country has seen in decades. The law ensures that pregnant and postpartum workers are not forced off the job, and get the accommodations they need to protect their health, without facing discrimination, retaliation or loss of paycheck.


Furthermore, the PWFA guarantees the following:


-Light duty, or help with manual labor and lifting

-Additional, longer, or more flexible breaks to drink water, eat, rest, or use the bathroom

-Time off for prenatal and postpartum appointments and childbirth recovery

-Opting for teleworking


“Thanks to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, pregnant and postpartum workers nationwide are finally afforded fairness, dignity, and equality under the law,” added Bakst. “But the law is only effective if workers know it exists. A Better Balance is committed to helping empower the Latina community with critical information about the law and the support they need to exercise their rights in the workplace.”


The organization offers a free, confidential work-family legal helpline (1-833-633-3222), providing direct bilingual legal services, and has just released a new guide for pregnant and postpartum workers in Spanish, which explains the law in clear terms, and provides sample letters they can send to their employer and links to resources for additional support.


These resources really work. Cristel and Victoria took the initiative by calling the Línea de Ayuda, where they learned how to fight discrimination, and once they shared information on the law’s requirements with their employers, both were rehired and received the just treatment that the law guarantees.


It’s just a down payment on the debt of gratitude society owes to mothers across the country.



Javier Sierra is a Spokesperson for A Better Balance.