Discrimination Isn't Funny.

by Meredith O'Brien

 

If you’ve tuned in to Desperate Housewives lately you’ve likely noticed that pregnancy discrimination has been played for laughs these days. Seriously.

 

It all started with the ABC drama’s season five finale when fortysomething ad exec Lynette Scavo, mother of four whose husband has gone back to college, discovered she was pregnant. With twins.

 

As the sixth season commenced, Lynette was distinctly ambivalent about the surprise pregnancy. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to go forward with it and even refused to look at the monitor during her first ultrasound. She later confided in a friend saying that there was a little voice in her head saying “maybe I shouldn’t” do this. Once Lynette came to terms with the situation and decided to go forward with the pregnancy -- encouraged by her husband Tom’s enthusiasm – they informed their children and one of her teens quipped, “Aren’t you going to be, like, the world’s oldest mom?”

 

With that out of the way, Lynette decided to share the information with her boss, Carlos Solis, a neighbor and a friend who hired Lynette after the Scavo family pizzeria went out of business. Carlos and his wife Gaby had been pals with the Scavos for many years, seen one another through cancer, blindness, child-rearing and marital difficulties. But not, apparently, Lynette’s inconvenient pregnancy.

 

Before Lynette could tell Carlos her news, he announced, point-blank, that he’d just passed over another talented, female employee for a promotion because she was pregnant and instead offered the position to Lynette. Thrown, Lynette tentatively started to tell him about her own pregnancy until he said that the promotion came with a hefty, salary bump, something her family of six -- about to become eight -- desperately needed. So she held her tongue and said nothing. Meanwhile, she trained an underling and closed a big deal so that when the time came, she wouldn’t leave her boss -- her friend, her neighbor -- in the lurch.

 

Then he found out, not from Lynette, that she was pregnant. Feeling betrayed, Carlos viciously went after her. First, he said Lynette was being given a mandatory “promotion” to a post in their Florida office, knowing that she couldn’t and wouldn’t take it and he could fire her for refusing. He also moved Lynette’s office to a supply closet, saying they no longer had room for her in the main office space. The coup de grace came after Lynette -- who’d had enough of Carlos’ threats and the humiliation he was heaping upon her -- filed a discrimination lawsuit against Carlos. That’s when Carlos gave Lynette 48 hours worth of work and told her if it wasn’t done in 24 hours, Lynette, his friend, his neighbor, would be fired. She couldn’t get it done. And Carlos fired her.

 

penn_girl
12.08.09

As a woman in a very demanding job who is concealing a four-month pregnancy from the head of her department (a super-alpha-male), this plotline hits disturbingly close to home! I have my annual review coming up by the end of the year and I'm determined not to say anything about the pregnancy, even though it is becoming painfully obvious. But I absolutely hate how the writers are handling this story. It is so clearly pregnancy harrasment, as you say, and not only are characters like Gabby and Carlos painfully oblivious to that fact (despite consulting with legal counsel, who, I promise, would never claim that Carlos and his company, "did things by the book"), but Lynette herself, who had gone through at least one other pregnancy as a professional woman, doesn't seem to realize how illegally she has been treated.

amandaalexander
12.07.09

This scenario of pregnancy discrimination may just be a plot on this popular TV drama, but you're right, unfortunately that drama is still all too familiar for a lot of women in today's workforce.

Amanda

Coaching for career, business and personal success

amandaalexander
12.07.09

This scenario of pregnancy discrimination may just be a plot on this popular TV drama, but you're right, unfortunately that drama is still all too familiar for a lot of women in today's workforce.

Amanda

Coaching for career, business and personal success