On Thursday, the New York Times published a report accusing Planned Parenthood of mistreating pregnant employees and failing to provide paid family leave in most of their offices. Within hours, Planned Parenthood’s new president, Leana Wen, released a statement saying she was “deeply disappointed” by the allegations, which she vowed the organization would investigate and address.
Ta’Lisa Hairston, one of the women featured in the Times story, worked as a medical assistant at a Planned Parenthood clinic in New York, and claims she was not allowed to rest or take lunch breaks even though her high blood pressure put her pregnancy at risk. “I had to hold back tears talking to pregnant women, telling them to take care of their pregnancies when I couldn’t take care of mine,” she said.
Other current and former employees said they witnessed pregnant women being passed over for promotions or denied jobs; some, from a Miami office, said that women were afraid of their telling managers they were pregnant.
The Times also found that 49 of Planned Parenthood’s 55 offices don’t offer paid maternity leave. Twenty of the offices allow their employees to take short-term paid disability leave. The report acknowledges that this is the result of “financial pressures” — the organization is under constant attack from conservative lawmakers who want to defund it, and has faced budget cuts in recent years. (“It is easy to accuse someone of hypocrisy if you’re not the one trying to find $2 million out of thin air,” said the head of a Planned Parenthood office in Seattle.)
In her statement, Wen insisted that Planned Parenthood does not tolerate discrimination and announced that the company would be thoroughly investigating the complaints, enlisting the help of “external experts” in order to “review, revamp, and strengthen our parental leave policies and ensure a culture that supports pregnant and parenting staff.” The results of that review will be released in the fall of 2019, she said.
She also pointed to the issue underlying Planned Parenthood’s inability to provide sufficient family leave for its employees: the fact that the U.S. is the only developed nation without any sort of paid family leave guarantee. (Under the current policy, workers are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.)
“The New York Times article reminds us of the abiding and widespread inequity in American workplaces,” she wrote. “Too many workers are not receiving emotional and material security for themselves and their families. This is an issue of equity, health, and justice.”