Discrimination of women at the workplace

Monica Mihu

Discrimination is a serious problem that some persons face every day and it affects their lives. If we were to define it, we would say that it refers to unfair treatment that some people receive from other persons or from society because they are different. However, the essence of the word can be found in the consequences of this social problem. It can make people lose their confidence, cause anxiety or depression. Discrimination of women at the workplace is just a form of discrimination that females have to deal with.

How can this happen in democratic societies, in a world in which authorities claim that equality in rights is a basic principle and rule that countries adopted and follow? The route of the problem does not stand in the events that happen today, but deep down in the mentality of the people. Women are perceived as devoted housewives and mothers who are responsible with the duties inside the house and with taking care and educating their children. For this reason, women are seen as less reliable when it comes to hiring a new person for a job. They can get pregnant and thus, they will have other responsibilities (besides the ones from the workplace) that they will need to deal with.

Another aspect for which women are judged is that they can become too emotional. Although this is valid for both sexes, females are the ones who are associated with this characteristic. This can make it difficult for them to act in crisis situations, which is an additional issue for the employer.

Due to these problems, women have fought and received rights to protect them against discrimination. For example, in Romania, according to the 24th article from the Law 202/2002, the National Agency regarding the Equality in Chances between Men and Women deals with discrimination issues from the labor market. The law has a special section for future mothers and female employees who have children. The 10th article from the second chapter of the law clearly states that maternity is not a reason for women to be discriminated. Employers cannot ask women to take a pregnancy test or oblige them to sign a document through which they state that they will not remain pregnant as long as the labor contract is still valid. Furthermore, women cannot be fired while they are pregnant, while they have taken their maternity leave or while they have taken the leave to raise their children for 2 years or 3 years in case of children with handicap. Also, after the maternity leave or the leave for raising the child has ended, women have the right to return to their last workplace or to an equivalent workplace which has equivalent labor conditions and benefit from any changes and improvements that have happened while they were absent.

Another document which protects the rights of females who are mothers or who are about to become mothers is the Government Emergency Ordinance No.96 from October 14, 2003 regarding the protection of the maternity at the workplace. It presents the obligations women have at their workplace when they become pregnant. For instance, according to the 2nd article of this document, a woman has to announce her employer in writing that she is pregnant and bring a medical document that proves this fact. In this way, the employer becomes aware of her pregnancy and has to provide special labor conditions for her. Moreover, the employer has to adopt certain measures in order to protect the pregnant employee’s health and to make sure that the job does not cause any harm to her and/or her child (according to the 4th article). In addition, if women cannot work according to the schedule of a full-time job, a quarter of their working time is reduced and their salary does not suffer any modifications (according to the 13th article).  Last but not least, women have to take a postnatal leave of minimum 42 days (according to the 16th article) and have the right to take 2 breaks per day of one hour each in order to breastfeed their children (according to the 17th article).

With these laws, women still deal with discrimination at their workplace. Whether they are rejected in the recruiting part or they receive unfair treatment after they are hired, discrimination has become part of their professional life. In order to eliminate, people need to completely reset their minds and delete all the preconceptions they have about women. It is hard to say how long it will take, but when this will happen, the world would look absolutely different.






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