Taking a Stand Against a 21st Century Scarlet Letter
Today, we filed suit in federal court on behalf of Jennifer Maudlin, a single mother who was fired when her employer learned that she was pregnant. Jennifer’s employer - a religiously-affiliated community organization called Inside Out - says that it fired Jennifer for violating its unwritten rule against non-marital sex.
What happened to Jennifer amounts to discrimination based on pregnancy status and gender. Why? Because Inside Out learned about its workers’ sexual lives by looking at its women workers’ bellies. In fact, Jennifer and other women workers who became pregnant had to hide their bellies for as long as possible because they were terrified of being found out and fired. Unmarried men who had sex, and even those who became fathers, had nothing to fear, because - of course - their bellies wouldn’t give them away. In Jennifer’s workplace, pregnancy became a “scarlet letter,” marking unmarried employees for termination.
The treatment of women workers at Inside Out also subjects women workers to mistreatment based on sex stereotypes. When a person can be thrown out of work because she decides to - or must - take on motherhood alone, what are we as a society saying about her? That she’s unworthy of any further association with her coworkers? That she’s unfit to participate in economic life? That she doesn’t deserve to be able to eat, or pay rent, or buy gas?