That’s the word in the blogosphere. In case you missed it, there was major drama over at the AOL blogs recently — most specifically with TechCrunch, whose founder and editor Mike Arrington left the company after an ethical controversy. The position was filled, but not before considering Senior Editor Sarah Lacy who had all the qualifications, except she was away on four months maternity leave.
Bummer, was the final verdict from TechCrunch.
But wait — is that legal?
Jezebel looked further into whether not promoting someone while on maternity leave was a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. According to Ariela Migdal, a staff attorney in the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Projects, AOL could have been within their legal rights on this one. Although it could be that they were treating Sarah Lacy differently because of her maternity leave (which is a clear violation of the law), it also could mean that they were treating her like any other employee on an extended leave. And if they had to fill the position immediately, the reason for passing her over could be “absence,” not “maternity leave.”
Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center commented over at Jezebel that it’s illegal to pass over an employee just because it’s assumed that a working mother couldn’t handle (or wouldn’t want) the extra hours, extra stress, extra travel, etc. That’s discrimination. So if AOL assumed that Sarah Lacey wouldn’t be able to handle the extra work load with her new baby, that’s illegal. If they just needed someone to take Arrington’s position ASAP, then it’s legal to pass over someone who will be out of the office for such a large amount of time.
It’s kind of a non-issue because Sarah Lacey never even said that she wanted the position to begin with — but it’s an interesting point to bring up. It’s important to know your rights, ladies. Not hiring someone based on pregnancy is just as illegal as passing over someone based on their gender, religion or race — yet it’s still much more common.
Have you ever been the target of pregnancy discrimination? Do you think AOL was justified in passing over a pregnant editor?