In a New York Times article Thursday, former employees accused Planned Parenthood of discriminating against pregnant staffers at several clinics across the country. Current and former employees say that pregnant workers were denied paid maternity leave and sufficient breaks, pressured to return early from unpaid maternity leave, and locked out of promotions. Bustle has reached out to Planned Parenthood for comment.
Some of the things Planned Parenthood is accused of doing are illegal — refusing to hire pregnant women, for instance — while others are legal but at odds with the organization's general mission of "provid[ing] comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services."
One woman told The Times that she got pregnant while working as a medical assistant for one of the organization's New York clinics, and was advised by her doctor to take frequent breaks to avoid raising her blood pressure. But her managers ignored her requests, she told The Times, and "rarely" gave her rest or lunch breaks. A former hiring manager at a California clinic alleged that when promotions were discussed among higher-ups, supervisors "openly debated whether candidates were likely to get pregnant in the near future and preferred those who were not."
Most Planned Parenthood clinics don't offer paid maternity leave, according to The Times. Since 2013, the organization has been the subject of a dozen lawsuits accusing managers of retaliating against employees who took medical leave or denying workers rest breaks, lunch breaks or overtime pay, the publication noted.
Leana Wen, Planned Parenthood's president, addressed the article in a statement to Bustle.
“As a doctor, a public health leader, and a mother, I am deeply disappointed by a recent New York Times article that included allegations about our organization not living up to our high standards and policies," Wen said. "A core principle of reproductive health equity is the right to become a parent and raise a family free from fear and discrimination. I’m a new mother to a one-year-old boy, and I know how challenging pregnancy and returning to work can be. It is essential that all employers and all sectors of society support pregnant women and new parents."
Wen said that the organization "move[s] immediately to investigate and address" any claims of discrimination from employees," but nevertheless acknowledged that "we must do better than we are now," and announced that Planned Parenthood is "launching a major new initiative to review, revamp, and strengthen our parental leave policies and ensure a culture that supports pregnant and parenting staff."
"We will be seeking the advice of external experts who will work with the national office and affiliates to advise on best practices and assist us with implementation," Wen said." We will announce the results of the review, specific actions to be taken, and resources required in the fall of 2019."
Christine Charbanneau runs Planned Parenthood's regional office in Seattle, and oversees 27 clinics in the Northwest. She told The Times that in 2017, she asked her human resources department to determine the cost of providing maternity leave for all employees under her jurisdiction. The price tag was $2 million, more than the entire annual budget of some Planned parenthood clinics.
“It is easy to accuse someone of hypocrisy if you’re not the one trying to find $2 million out of thin air,” Charbanneau told The Times. “You try to be the Planned Parenthood that donors expect, and yet it is unattainable.”