Women, The Economy, and Unemployment Insurance
I am eight months pregnant. I am currently in a battle with unemployment insurance and my previous employer, WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) over whether or not I should be allowed unemployment benefits. Since October 24 (almost six weeks ago) I have been wrongfully let go from my position as Electrical Mechanical Helper and placed in a limbo status. I am not able to collect unemployment benefits and I am not able to continue working due to my Superintendent. Allow me to explain.
Back in August, my doctor had given me restrictions. I work in a male dominated division of WMATA, Car Maintenance, and to my knowledge no one had had any experience working with a pregnant mechanic (me) before. So when I received the restrictions, I gave them to my Superintendent. The restrictions were minor in that they did not affect my ability to do the core functions of my job. Nevertheless, my Superintendent pulled me off the floor and placed me in a position as Tool Room Clerk. I was Tool Room Clerk until October 24th. That was when my Superintendent decided that they would no longer accommodate me and that for the safety of myself and the safety of my unborn child, effective at 8:30 am I was no longer working at my job location and was not allowed to come back until I had a full duty status from medical. When I called medical, I was informed I could not come back until my doctor had given me a full duty status. At seven months pregnant, I knew full well my doctor was not going to do that. So, since I was not collecting a paycheck and I did not quit my job, I filed for unemployment benefits.
Many women may not know this but just because you are given certain restrictions that affect your current job due to a short-term disability or pregnancy does not mean you are unable to work. I am a licensed electrician but also have years of experience as a Program/Financial Analyst and Executive Administrative Assistant. The restrictions my doctor gave me had no effect on my ability to work in other positions, so I should’ve been able to collect unemployment because I was able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work.
I was denied unemployment and requested an appeals hearing. The hearing was last week. I will not have an answer from unemployment for another four to six weeks. Meanwhile, I still have no paycheck. I had a bit of savings, which is now being dwindled away by trying to pay all my monthly bills and mortgage.
Inherently, there is something wrong here. I am able to work, I am being denied the right to work, and I have no paycheck! Unemployment insurance is just that—Insurance to protect workers, like me, who are wrongfully denied the right to work through no fault of their own and must seek work elsewhere.
This is a position that I never saw myself in: not being able to work because a boss didn’t want to take the liability if something were to happen to me or my unborn child which is pregnancy discrimination. That’s another issue for another time though.
By Angel Savoy, Vice President, Metro DC Chapter, Coalition of Labor Union Women
Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.