Why I am a feminist: Chapter Sixtyhundredeleventy
Looks like women who are pregnant are the first to get the pink slip during these depressed economic times.
What's especially stunning, they say, is how brazen some bosses are, almost 50 years after Ontario enacted the Human Rights Code to prevent such discrimination.
"We actually have an email from one employer saying, `Sorry, but with your little bundle, I don't think we'll be able to (re)hire you. We want a permanent solution,'" says Consuelo Rubio, manager of client services for Ontario's Human Rights Legal Support Centre, an independent agency funded by the province to provide free legal services to people experiencing discrimination.
The firings are in all sectors: "It's happening to women in senior positions and women in minimum-wage jobs," says Katherine Laird, executive director of the centre, who says she hasn't seen this level of discrimination through two previous recessions and 30 years in the human rights field.
"It's outrageous and illegal," Laird says.
The spike in calls from pregnant women who are frightened for their jobs, can't nail down return-to-work dates or have been told there will be no job waiting for them at the end of their maternity leave, started last fall. But they hit "nightmare" levels in January, says Rubio, and are now averaging 10 to 15 calls a week – accounting for about 10 per cent of all calls from workers inquiring about their rights.
The centre is also fielding more calls from injured workers and disabled people – who have always accounted for the vast majority of inquiries – and are seeing troubling signs on that front as well, especially among people who work for hard-hit auto-parts manufacturers, some of them unionized shops.
Human-rights advocates are investigating a Peterborough firm that produces car bumpers and other plastic parts. It laid off 18 workers back in January – every one of whom had at some point claimed disability benefits or were on modified work assignments to allow them to do less strenuous work to cope with their injury.
Meanwhile, 18 "healthy" workers were called back from layoffs.
"The Human Rights Code is supposed to be about recognizing the worth and dignity of every person – and sometimes the real test of an employer's commitment comes when economic times are tough," says Kate Sellar, a lawyer with the centre.
"Bad economic times aren't a licence for employers to discriminate against pregnant women and workers with disabilities."
Especially alarming to me are a few of the nearly 100 comments (so far) on the Star's main web page. It's as if the writers want to roll back the calendar back to the days when public school teachers were fired for ''showing.''
In 1975, in Toronto, I applied to a well-known ad agency for a position as a copywriter and was told point blank that there was no point in hiring and training me because, as a newlywed, it was inevitable I would end up pregnant and gone. That incident helped shape my politics.
But now leaves/benefits are the law. No discrimination.
Canadians have fought hard for these rights, which can be shared (to some extent) by both the mother and father. (It was the Canadian Union of Postal Workers who nailed these benefits after a 42-day strike, bless 'em, back in 1981.)
But, of course, fathers don't ''pop'' at about four months. And it usually falls to women -- who make less than men -- to stay home with the baby, particularly if nursing is part of the plan. So, of course, it's women who get screwed ... again.