Human Interest

Pregnant lawyer forced out of job describes hostile conditions: ‘I knew there was no choice’


Jenny Leon is a lawyer who was forced to quit her job due to pregnancy discrimination. She wrote an article about her experience, published at Yahoo! Lifestyle. While pregnant, Leon worked long hours under extreme stress. She spotted throughout her pregnancy, and worried about losing her baby. She said that her law firm was extremely hostile toward mothers who needed time off to care for their children. She noted the experiences of other mothers in her workplace:

Looking around me, my future seemed bleak. One evening I peered into the office of a partner, a young mother, who was passed out on her desk. On a client call one evening, I listened to another partner, this one a single mother, pleading with the client to push an arbitrary deadline to the next morning, as she needed to be home by 9 p.m. to relieve her babysitter. Her pleas were briskly dismissed.

Many other coworkers were faced with regret regarding their work- and family-life choices, she said:

This situation seemed preferable to the alternative: the partners who lived in the land of deep regret. There was the woman who kept an apartment in the city and only saw her kids on weekends. After her kids grew up, she moved across the country to where one of them lived, so she could at least be present for her grandchildren. One woman regretfully told me that she would never have kids. She worked too hard to either meet a man or to do it on her own. Another spoke about how she waited too long to have children and ended up needing numerous rounds of fertility treatments.

One coworker, she said, had a letter taped on his office door from his child, asking him when he was coming home. He’d missed her birthday, the child said.

Leon feared this was a sign of what awaited her.

READ: Google employee alleges pregnancy discrimination and refuses to return after maternity leave

Throughout her pregnancy, Leon finished all her work on time and met all the extreme demands put on her shoulders. But at 32 weeks, she began to bleed. As she contemplated going to the hospital, her boss burst in and demanded she write a letter. She explained to him that she needed to go to the hospital. She described him as being “incredulous,” and he dismissed her with annoyance and disgust.

She stopped bleeding, and thankfully, her baby was still healthy. She decided to go in to work the next day, a Sunday, to finish the letter:

Feeling incredibly guilty, I decided to go into the office early Sunday morning. As I was going out the door, a friend from work texted, “I have something to tell you.” She had overheard the partner on the phone the night before. “He said you flaked again for some pregnancy-related excuse.”

Leon wrote:

I had given so much of myself, my time, my sweat, my tears and my pregnancy to this man. But the second I expected some basic human consideration, I was thrown away like a dirty diaper. If I couldn’t give them everything, I was nothing. I had fallen into the stereotype of a woman whose priorities had shifted and my baby hadn’t even been born.

I knew there was no choice. I had to leave.

Ironically, Leon’s mother had also been forced out of her job as a lawyer when she was pregnant with Leon back in 1986.

The problem, Leon says, is widespread and systemic.

What Leon doesn’t mention is that legalized abortion is a big part of why pregnancy discrimination persists. Sadly, feminists have abandoned most of their activism against pregnancy discrimination in favor of promoting and defending abortion. In addition, the existence of abortion places the burden of a pregnancy on a woman’s shoulders in the sense that her employers can blame her if she doesn’t abort. The attitude that if a woman chooses not to abort she has only herself to blame if she loses her job is only possible because abortion is legal. Abortion’s legality leads to coercion and discrimination against women in many forms.

In this way, abortion has hurt women’s freedom to work and still be mothers.

Women should not be forced to choose between having children and having a career. According to Leon, very little progress has been made regarding this in the past 35 years.

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