Labour relations; Human rights advocates say they've seen a surge in number of women fired

Greetings!  I’m Nico Trimoff, manager of accessibility services at
Today, unlike my good news of last week, I’d like to bring a very troubling trend to your attention and I truly hope that after reading it you will find it easier to raise your voices and make known your opinions to the powers that be.
Please read on.
I wish you a great day.
Labour relations; Human rights advocates say they’ve seen a surge in number
of pregnant woman being fired

susan pigg
The Toronto Star, Apr. 28, 2009
First-time mom Vera Trevisanello was supposed to return to her training job
at a downtown financial services company this week. Instead, she’s been
pounding the pavement with her year-old baby in tow, looking for work as a
“I paid off my student loan working as a server, so I’ll do it again if I
have to, to get through this,” says the Whitby resident.
But Trevisanello confesses she finally broke down in tears last week after
being told the Boston Pizza near her home was already overstaffed for tough
times: “I had to beg them to take my resume.”
With just 12 days to go until Trevisanello, 36, was expecting to return to a
promotion and a boost in salary to $55,000 a year, she got the phone call
she’d been anticipating pretty much since the day she told her female boss
she was pregnant: “My services were no longer needed.”
“I think they planned this,” she says of the company. “I felt they were
really gunning for me from the minute they found out I was pregnant and
about to change from this young married woman, who had all this time on her
hands and was willing to work as many hours as needed, to someone who’s got
needs of her own now. Suddenly it was as if, ‘We’re not first any more.'”
Human rights advocates say they’ve been seeing a troubling surge since last
fall in the number of pregnant woman being fired by employers claiming that
hard times are to blame.
A spokesperson for Trevisanello’s previous employer refused to discuss
specifics of the case, other than to say some 400 employees have been laid
off over the past 20 weeks: “There were a lot of difficult decisions and
this was just one of them.”
Ontario’s Human Rights Legal Support Centre, an independent agency funded by
the province to provide free legal services to people experiencing
discrimination, are now averaging 10 to 15 calls a week 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. The calls hit “nightmare” levels in January, frontline
workers say.
But what’s almost as worrisome is how brazen some bosses have been in
writing emails or leaving phone messages that are proof positive there’s a
link between the pregnancy and the job cut, says Consuelo Rubio, manager of
client services for the legal support centre.
In lots of other cases the firings are far more cleverly masked, says one
new mother who didn’t want her name used because she’s still negotiating her
severance package. Two weeks ago, the pharmaceutical firm where she has
worked for more than a decade laid off two pregnant women and 14 workers on
maternity leave,
but their pinks slips went out with dozens of others.
“I think we were targeted, but it’s impossible to prove,” says the woman who
now finds herself in an especially difficult position – unable to claim for
employment insurance benefits because she’s used up her full allotment as
maternity leave. “It sure sends a strong message to women that you might not
want to get pregnant right now.”
Trevisanello suspected her pregnancy wasn’t an altogether happy event for
her boss, claiming she was asked to book her full seven months of
obstetrical appointments with her Whitby doctor in advance, provide a list
of dates and take them as vacation time. She says she was also asked to
reschedule her three- month ultrasound appointment because the time was “not
convenient to the company,” which meant it didn’t happen until the
five-month mark.
Things got especially difficult when Trevisanello started getting
debilitating headaches in her seventh month and went over her sick-leave
allotment. As a courtesy, she says, she decided to leave work two months
early and wasn’t concerned when a box of personal items from her desk
arrived by courier a few months into her maternity leave, including an
outfit and a book for the baby.
When she got a call a few weeks ago with the offer of a promotion and raise,
Trevisanello saw it as a sign her boss had done a rethink and was keen to
get her back. Her husband feared right away that the promotion was just a
way to move her out of her old job, which has since been staffed by someone
Businessman Michael McNally, a father of six children and the owner of four
Tim Hortons franchises, has no sympathy for employers who complain that
pregnancies are costly and complicating for companies.
So he was mortified to end up on the wrong side of Ontario’s labour laws
last January when a pregnant employee complained that her store manager had
drastically cut her full-time hours to about four or five a week not long
after she announced she was pregnant.
When McNally was asked for an explanation from legal support centre lawyers,
he discovered it was largely a miscommunication and moved quickly to credit
the employee for back hours so she could qualify for full maternity
“We’ve even hired pregnant women. I don’t see (pregnancy) as a disadvantage.
As employers we need to respect and support families. After all, we depend
on families for our business.”
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About Donna Jodhan

Donna Jodhan is an award winning blind author, advocate, sight loss coach, blogger, podcast commentator, and accessibility specialist.
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