On top of managing childcare and the demands of work during a pandemic, working moms now have additional stress to cope with—the increased risk of being fired for having kids. In a lawsuit filed recently, San Diego resident Drisana Rios alleges that her former employer, Hub International, fired her because her kids were being kids and making noise while she was on work calls. Huh, strange that dads get to go viral when that happens!
Rios had been working for Hub International, an insurance brokerage company, as an account executive since 2019. After her company went remote due to the covid-19 pandemic, she had to balance taking care of a one-year-old and a four-year-old at home while simultaneously working. She told the New York Times that she “worked harder than I ever had in my entire career” during the pandemic. “I’m meeting the deadlines, I’m working so hard,” Rios told Good Morning America, adding, “There’s times when I’m working at night too, to make up for anything that needs to be done for the next day.”
But that didn’t seem to matter to Rios’s boss, who according to Rios, told her her that her kids “could be heard on business calls with clients” and that it was “unprofessional.”
In her complaint, Rios also notes instances where her supervisor ignored her requests for accommodations. From the New York Times:
In the complaint, Ms. Rios said her supervisor assigned her several tasks with short turnaround times, even though the tasks were not urgent. She said she told her supervisor that afternoon calls worked best for her because that was when her youngest child napped. The complaint says her supervisor “continued scheduling calls during lunch times, when Plaintiff was feeding her children, nursing or putting her child down for a nap.”
Ms. Rios also endured “sexist statements” from her supervisor, who was “motivated by a clear bias against mothers,” the complaint says.
She was eventually told to address her “time-management issues” with another supervisor. According to the complaint, the supervisor accused her of being “defensive” and said he was “tired of accommodating” her. After detailing her treatment multiple times to Human Resources, Ms. Rios said she was let go on June 2, with the company citing the pandemic’s negative effect on its revenue as the reason.
Rios isn’t the only working mother who has been fired because her employers believed her childcare responsibilities during the pandemic were interfering with her work. In April, Oakland resident Michelle Burnett, a single mom to two daughters, was fired from her job at a retirement home after she requested a mere two hours off to pick up a laptop for one of her children, a task she had to do as schools had shifted to remote learning.
That same month, another single mom, Stephanie Jones, was fired by Eastern Airlines after she asked to work from home and for a few hours each day to care for her son, reasonable accommodations she believed she was entitled to under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Jones was reportedly told by the company’s head of human resources that the FFCRA wasn’t meant to be “a hammer to force management into making decisions which may not be in the interest of the company or yourself.” A few days later, Jones was fired, and she subsequently sued the company.
According to Joan Williams, a law professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law and the founder of the Center of WorkLife Law, we can expect to see more cases of employers discriminating against working parents, and particularly working mothers. Because of the pandemic, Williams told Bloomberg Law, “We are at risk for a whole new round and increased interest in family responsibilities discrimination. She added, “You have a recipe for discrimination. Inevitably, there will be assumptions about who is valuable and who is performing up to snuff. That’s where the lawsuits start.”
America, we love kids and moms, except when we don’t!