Elizabeth Warren claps back at claims she’s lying about pregnancy discrimination

Democratic Presidential candidate Senato...

It really feels like Senator Elizabeth Warren is finally getting some momentum. Not only is she raising a lot of money and rising in the polls, but she’s getting a lot of attention from conservative outlets eager to crawl up her butt over anything and everything. The story this week has been – in conservative circles – that Sen. Warren lied when she repeatedly claimed that she was fired from her first teaching job when she was visibly pregnant.

It is one of Elizabeth Warren’s signature anecdotes in her stump speech: By the end of her first year as a public-school teacher, she was “visibly pregnant,” and the principal wished her luck and hired another teacher to replace her.

In recent days, a conservative news site and other outlets have cited evidence that challenges her account, including past remarks by Ms. Warren in which she did not mention being forced to leave the school and minutes from a school board meeting showing that her contract was initially extended for the next school year.

Ms. Warren is now pushing back against any suggestion that she has misrepresented the circumstances of her departure, and pointing to the discrimination that many pregnant women have faced on the job. The school board did extend her contract early in her pregnancy, before the school knew about it, she said in an interview with CBS News. But two months later, when it was clear that she was pregnant, she lost the job.

[From The NY Times]

This was in the early 1970s. Considering women are still getting pushed out of jobs – or simply not promoted – due to pregnancy in 2019, why is it so shocking to think that a 22-year-old woman in 1971 would have been quietly fired/not asked to return because of her pregnancy? It’s almost like – hear me out – conservatives are all dudes who have literally no idea what the female experience is like right now, or what women have faced for decades and centuries. Sen. Warren doubled-down on her story:

Then she told her story on camera and added some of the messages she got.

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Photos courtesy of WENN, Backgrid.

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59 Responses to “Elizabeth Warren claps back at claims she’s lying about pregnancy discrimination”

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  1. Rapunzel says:

    Liz frightens them. They are throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.

  2. Lightpurple says:

    Ronna Romney McDaniel should be ashamed of herself for pushing this line of attack. She’s hiding her own name to please her misogynist boss.

  3. tealily says:

    This makes me so unbelievably angry. So deeply, deeply angry. How dare these people! I know someone this happened to about two years ago! I can only imagine it was worse in 1971. To dismiss this experience out of hand because it doesn’t sounds plausible… talk to literally any woman you know and I’m SURE she knows at least one person this has happened to. I’m fuming. I can’t even think coherently.

    • Millennial says:

      I was on a FB reading discussions about pregnancy discrimination. It’s so, so common, tons of women had a story. I had a story but I didn’t share it because the group was public and I’m friends with work people on FB.

      My story isn’t pregnancy discrimination per say, as much as it’s being expected to come back before my federally mandated 12 weeks. I ended up coming back at 8-9 weeks. Like yes, there are federal laws, but it’s largely up to whether or not you have a good supervisor. How many women are really going to sue the place putting food on the table for not following federal regulations?

      All that is to say, I believe Elizabeth Warren.

      • TQB says:

        I was up for a big promotion. Had a great meeting with the would-be bosses, everything was grand. They didn’t know me well and didn’t realize I was 5 months pregnant. Until my then-boss mentioned it, and then suddenly I was all wrong for the role. I know this because my boss was horrified – he had assumed they knew and had mentioned it only in the context of transition timing. I couldn’t believe the short-sightedness of it – I only got 12 weeks of leave anyways. They seriously thought they couldn’t wait that out.

  4. Ann says:

    Liz is my candidate. I do love Bernie and I’ll be happy to vote for him in the general if he gets the nom but I am excited to vote for Warren next year.

  5. Rapunzel says:

    Pregnancy discrimination still happens, btw. Maybe not firings, but other things. Example: my sis, pregnant at 40 after a miscarriage the year before, had a rough pregnancy and was told by her doctor to take it easy. The school didn’t want to accept that my sis wasn’t supposed to do yard duty and needed extra bathroom breaks/sitting time. Even with a doctor’s note, they forced her to start maternity leave early because she couldn’t do everything. This meant my sis got less time with her baby (her first) after the baby was born. All because it was too much to provide more bathroom breaks and get someone else to do yard duty.

    • Esmom says:

      Yes. It happens in big ways but women also experience smaller, microaggressions about preganancy. I had a boss who, whenever we had some crisis or was stressed out about a client or project, would say “just don’t get pregnant ok?” I know he thought he meant it as a compliment, that he thought I was indispensable, but it irked me to no end. And if he did it with me I’m sure he did it with other women. Two decades later, I hope he knows better by now.

      The Republicans are garbage.

  6. Tx_mom says:

    God, I was a school-girl in 1971 and we weren’t even allowed to wear PANTS to school. (By the time we were in high school it was jeans everyday, that’s one thing that changed!)

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      I have a vague memory of us girls in the early 70s (placing me in early high school) going on strike in front of the school for the right to wear pants. It was about time. Once that started there was no turning back. We were finally comfortable and warm.

      However, decades later, a client advised me to wear a skirt when I taught a corporate class, rather than the tailored business-slacks outfits (pant suits, or slacks with blazer) I’d been wearing. I asked her why, and she said, “Out of respect.” Out of respect for what? Men who wanted to see my legs? Bizarre.

      I continued to wear slacks. That companies’ employees wore short denim miniskirts (the women) and generally looked pretty slobby. So much for respect.

      So many stories, right? This was the least of it.

    • JanetDR says:

      Right?! OMG to be so cold in the winter. You could wear snow pants under but then you had to take them off in front of everyone which felt weird. I was in 6th grade when we got to wear pants in Fridays and then the whole no pants things went away…. My first pair of school pants (vs. play pants which I obviously put on the minute I got home) were a turquoise, purple and pink paisley print with bell bottoms – pretty groovy!
      Also, Elizabeth Warren is so right for the job of President.

    • dj says:

      Yes! I totally remember having to wear shorts under dresses if you wanted to climb on playground equipment because we could not wear pants yet. I also remember that in 6th grade boys got to be crossing guards (which was a really big deal) but girls did not. My girlfriend and I started to ask our teacher why was that…what was the evidence that boys should get to do that and not girls? We got sent to the principals office. We did not relent. Next years (after we were already in 6th grade) class girls got to be crossing guards too. Ah. Early feminist memories!

  7. Who ARE These People? says:

    Pregnancy discrimination is among the many very real ways that employers push women out or keep them from rising. I wasn’t pregnant, but I found that even when I was getting married, people started to assume I didn’t need to work full time or seriously. And when I became a parent (not via pregnancy), some clients started to ask me to cover lighter, more “kiddie” -oriented projects instead of the solid business and technology fare on which I’d made my name. I had to push back. The workplace simply hasn’t been designed around the real lives of more than half the workforce.

    My husband made career compromises once we grew our family but he was always given credit as a real “family man.” Nobody calls a woman raising kids a real “family woman.”

    It’s disgusting that men whose political brand is constant lies keep accusing women of the same.

  8. Veronica’s friend Betty says:

    It definitely still occurs. When I was pregnant, the police department where I work pulled and IA on me based on rumors made up by a lieutenant and his cronies. I was “investigated” the entire time I was on maternity leave. Not stressful at all for a new mom. Several times I was told to “just say I did it and they’d close out the investigation,” despite having no evidence. Two days before I was to return to work, one of the administrators called me and apologized for what they put me through , then quashed the entire investigation.

  9. Valiantly Varnished says:

    My mother gave birth to my younger brother in 1984. She went on maternity leave and when she tried to come back her job was gone. Considering there was no real legislation protecting pregnant women’s jobs until 1993-it is not unusual at all that a woman would have lost her for getting pregnant back in the 70’.

    • Badrockandroll says:

      My mom and her friend moved from the country to the city in the late 1950s and shared an apartment while they both worked. My mom’s friend was a stewardess (that’s what they were called then) & eventually got married and moved into another apartment with her husband. She never updated her address with HR, and whenever the airline phoned, my mom would say she’s out shopping, she’s in the shower etc because stewardesses were not allowed to be married.
      Between 1972 – 1977 I was a very precocious prepubescent feminist; I am now a post menopausal horrified one – I see every victory of my lifetime being chiselled away. Women my age did not expect to have to fight these battles twice. We bought it, and sold it to our daughters and granddaughters, only to discover that we were never really a part of it.
      But I must say I am braver now, and honestly do not give a sh!t what people say anymore, so watch out – we have no patience.

      • dj says:

        Yes Badrockandroll. That summarises my experience quite well. Women our age did not think we would have to fight for this crap twice. I have no f**ks to give anymore so I am much braver now too. I told my husband to watch out that I feel that women have a “simmering rage” right now. He looked surprised but loved the phrase.

  10. Lizzie says:

    people are idiots and those who don’t believe warren are either guilty of the line of thinking that pregnant women shouldn’t work (or any woman) or are internalizing the misogyny they have experienced in their own life.

    in 2009 two people at my job were forced out of their jobs due to pregnancy. they had different jobs but he same boss. while pregnant they were both reprimanded on their professional attire, attitudes and were nit picked on all kinds of issues to make it seem like they were slacking on their jobs. Then – while on maternity leave they were told their positions were downgraded to part time and they were losing their benefits. Both had to quit b/c they literally couldn’t afford to work there. It was hideous.

    • otaku fairy.... says:

      I think it’s all part of the conservative need and trend to dismiss people as liars any time they share experiences of discrimination. That’s their M.O. Plus this particular person also happens to be running for office, so they have extra incentive to try to discredit her.

    • Ali says:

      I worked in a conservative law firm during my first pregnancy and was told by HR that I needed to not wear certain tops I’d been wearing (shell tank with a cardigan over it) because my larger chest was making it unprofessional. They sent me home to change. That was 2007.

      • tealily says:

        Are you kidding me?? Just kidding, I know you’re not because I’ve seen this sh*t happen too.

  11. Jensies says:

    Someone also posted a news article yesterday from a paper in NJ in 1973, celebrating a law change that women no longer had to be AUTOMATICALLY fired if they were pregnant teachers. That was two years after Warren said she was let go. So yeah, I believe her.

    So what if she didn’t tell the true story years ago and made it sound like she chose this. Maybe that was her way of dealing with it, maybe it was internalized misogyny, maybe she was trying to protect her principal.

  12. TQB says:

    Warren is meeting every one of these attacks with candor and focus on her message. She’s also making big efforts to reach Black women, which is about f’ing time someone gave a crap about the most consistent core of the democratic party. I know my NA friends are still waiting for a bit more honesty and willingness to learn regarding her tribal affiliation claims. I really hope she takes the time to do so.

    • BorderMollie says:

      I can’t speak for other indigenous people, but personally I find her history of fabrication and falsehoods about First Nations heritage to be unforgivable and disqualifying. If she became the Dem candidate it would probably also sink her in the general.

      This story, however, is nonsense.

      • dlc says:

        So, my family also talked about my Native American heritage, and I was always very proud of it. I got a DNA test, and it’s virtually nonexistent. My poor white family, for whatever reason, seized on that as a point of pride. I hope people don’t judge Eliabeth Warren for, at one time, believing family lore that is greatly exaggerated.

  13. Maddie says:

    I want to see SNL take this on, only to see Maya Rudolph as Kamala Harris going “and that baby in the story…….was me”

  14. Earthbound says:

    Of course Warren is telling the truth. All older women in the US had to put up with sexism.

    My mom who wasnt even a feminist always talked about how she had to quit working when she was pregnant in the 70s with my brother. How it was terrible for her, because she desperately needed to work.

    But she said that’s just how it was. Once they noticed you were pregnant that was it.

    Imagine all the assholes with a little bit of power that you know. And now imagine them with the right to act however they want toward women who work for them. That’s how it was in the 70s bigtime.

    • Call_me_Al says:

      I would like to comment on another subset of pregnancy discrimination: graduate school, practica, internships, assistantships, and postdocs.
      I became pregnant at age 30 in the early spring of the second year of my four-year Ph.D. program in Counseling Psychology. I had a 20 hour per week graduate assistantship on campus that provided a small stipend while waiving my tuition and fees.
      I told my (female) director of my assistantship that I was due in October. She said I wouldn’t be eligible for an assistantship for Fall semester, because I would have to be out. I asked if I could work ahead, banking my hours while pregnant. She said no. I would be without an assistantship with no way to pay my tuition. She advised I take the semester off.
      Across campus, my professor stated I would need to come back to work “a couple of days” after the birth.
      I didn’t know what I was going to do.
      In the end, I miscarried the pregnancy. I then held off on trying again until very close to graduation.
      Then after two more miscarriages, I was completing a postdoc year. The director was not very supportive of my having to leave frequently to attend fertility appointments. It’s a very difficult time because of the pressures women are under without any support. I couldn’t wait any longer to get pregnant: I had to do it then or risk never having children, but I was in a subservient position.
      Just wanted to share the difficulties faced by many young women.

  15. lucy2 says:

    How could anyone doubt this happened in 1971, when it’s STILL happening today?

    Younger women continue to be asked about family planning in job interviews. Employers still use that as a reason to not hire women. Lots of women lose their jobs when they can’t work.

    • Juls says:

      And the thing is, they are not supposed to ask those questions. It’s a violation of federal law if they do. In 2007, I stated in a job interview that I was done having children so they didn’t have to worry about me becoming pregnant. I told them because I knew they wanted to know but couldn’t ask. I shouldn’t have felt the need to state this, but I did because I really wanted the job. I’m ashamed that I felt that way, but I shouldn’t be. I should be angry that patriarchal society dictated that I innately knew it would be an issue. Family planning is nobody’s business and should not affect hiring practices. Nobody asks or cares if young men are planning to become fathers in the near future.

  16. Corin says:

    I few years ago one the office manager in my very very small office got pregnant. I own the company and want to be a good employer. She had a really rough early pregnancy and needed a lot of accommodations. In a small office those accommodations put a lot of stress on the rest of us. But we made them because it was the right thing to do.

    She assured me time and time again she was coming back after her paid leave. So I hired a temp and held her job for her. After 4 moths of leave she told me she changed her mind and was not coming back. This is completely her choice. I miss her and still consider her a friend. However– it left me, as a boss, feeling kinda screwed over. I wanted to do everything I could to support her ability to work while pregnant and come back to work and her right to work afterward, but at the end of the day, my office made a ton of accommodations and investment in her and she left anyway. I don’t know how I am supposed to think about what happened.

    I am not sure I would do anything differently next time. And I respect her right to quit her job and do what is best for her family. But after that experience, I get why companies start checking out on their pregnant employees. As a feminist (and Warren supporter), I don’t know what to do about the sympathy I have for companies who discriminate. Can anyone give me a better perspective? Do we make accommodations and hold jobs simply because it is the right thing to do and not because we can have any expectation that the employee will ever “repay” us or return to work?

    • Ali says:

      “Do we make accommodations and hold jobs simply because it is the right thing to do”

      Yes.

      • Corin says:

        Yeah, that’s how I felt at the time. And still do feel– like as a business owner I do it cause its right, not cause it will necessarily help my bottom line. It was just a hard time that made me realize that it’s not as easy as “pretend pregnant employees aren’t pregnant and treat them the same as everyone else.” Making people and bringing babies into the world is a big deal and it can have a major impact on a business. It doesn’t always, but it can.

    • LP says:

      Hi Corin,

      Ask A Manager (my patron saint of all work matters) always says: people leave jobs. They just do, it isn’t personal, and good managers know to prepare and react accordingly. Being privately disappointed at the loss of a good employee is one thing, but every employee is disposable to the company, even men, and even you, so it isn’t worth feeling betrayed or wounded over. None of that is at all what Warren, and so many other women, are describing.

    • LP says:

      Hi Corin,

      Ask A Manager (my patron saint of all work matters) always says: people leave jobs. They just do, it isn’t personal, and good managers know to prepare and react accordingly. Being privately disappointed at the loss of a good employee is one thing, but every employee is disposable to the company, even men, and even you, so it isn’t worth feeling betrayed or wounded over. None of that is at all what Warren, and so many other women, are describing.

      • Corin says:

        Ask A Manager is right. People quit for all sorts of reasons. I think what feels similar about what Warren describes and my experience is that the entire system of work in our country doesn’t support women and families. As a business owner, I could create what ever policies and benefits I wanted in order to support pregnant women. And still I felt so locked in by a capitalist society and structure that just doesn’t work for families. I had a great employee who wanted to work for me and yet… daycare… and commuting… and all the other issues that make it hard for parents to work.
        It’s reasons like this that I am really hopeful about a Warren presidency. And I think in part is cause I feel like we need major structural changes on issues like this. Just saying “don’t discriminate” doesn’t change the reality of the really messed up situation we have for working families and employers who genuinely want to be supportive but fail to keep women in the workplace.

    • Suze says:

      You consider the accommodations and leave as benefits earned for the work they’ve already done. That’s why good companies pay out accrued vacation time when an employee leaves – the employee has done the work to earn the benefit, and deserves either the time or the money.

    • DS9 says:

      You’re supposed to think that people often don’t know how they will feel until they are actually in the situation.

      From a practical standpoint, yes, it’s frustrating but the best outcome is that you retain a trained, valuable employee while the worst is that you end up replacing her which is what will definitely happen if you don’t take the “risk” of making reasonable accommodations for a pregnant employee.

    • Wendy says:

      “Can anyone give me a better perspective? Do we make accommodations and hold jobs simply because it is the right thing to do and not because we can have any expectation that the employee will ever “repay” us or return to work?”

      Well, first off, it would probably do you a world of good to stop looking at this as you getting screwed over by your pregnant employee. Do you consider yourself to be screwed over whenever any employee leaves your company for a job that can pay them more, offer them better benefits, is closer to their home, et cetera? If not, then can you examine what makes you think differently about employees leaving your company for a better gig versus an employee leaving because their family needs are greater than they anticipated?

      • DS9 says:

        I can think of five reasons why she may not have come back and only a handful are semi related to pregnancy.

        1) She may have not realized how unhappy/unfulfilled/stressed she was until she left

        2) She may have realized she could better afford to be stay at home mom for a while than she thought.

        3) She was offered a job she liked better for whatever reason, better pay, on site childcare, a more flexible schedule, shorter commute, closer to her daycare…

        4) Daycare fell through

        5) Recovery was harder, baby has higher needs, mother or baby has a health issue she’d rather not disclose

        It’s a mistake to believe that she merely decided out of the blue she didn’t want to return or that this was her plan all along. Life is too complicated for that

    • tealily says:

      On top of all these excellent comments, I would say that this is just part and parcel to being and employer that makes an investment in its employees. I can see that you know this because you’re already doing the right thing, but making all these little investments in the individuals who work for you makes them, in turn, more loyal to you. It all builds trust between you. It really sucks that this time it didn’t work out in your favor, but I’ll wager that the way you manage has done more to retain the employees you still have than you even realize. The alternative would be that you don’t accommodate these sorts of requests, which would put your entire staff at a higher risk of leaving.

      I feel for you because I work in a very small workplace, too, and that stress that it puts on the other employees is real and significant. But personally, I would have left my own position years ago if I didn’t feel valued or like I could trust our management. You’re doing the right thing.

  17. Bookworm says:

    This is missing the rest of the story. There is a video interview of her from a few years ago discussing that she left that job because she needed more classes to have the proper teaching credentials for that job – she was hired on an emergency certification because they needed teachers. She didn’t leave because they noticed she was pregnant.

    Watch her own words in the video.

    • Call_me_Al says:

      Maybe provide the link and we can.

    • Carrie says:

      If this is true, consider that a few years ago, women couldn’t talk about what really truthfully happens to them.

      Warren is doing a great thing by sharing the stories she’s hearing and receiving and that’s what matters now.

      • Piptopher says:

        exactly! She is doing the work for this real issue. It doesn’t matter that much to me if it is true (which I think it most certainly is, I’m just saying)

  18. Missy says:

    There’s a video of her telling this story in a much different way. Many years ago, she said that her husband and her discussed it and decided she would stay home after the baby was born. No mention at all of not being asked back. Again, there is a recording of this as well as a recording of her recent claims. This is stupid, stupid, stupid.

    • Piptopher says:

      and how dare she not say exactly the same thing every time for 30 years. I was raped in my senior year of college but sometimes when someone asked why I had a bad experience at school I’ll say something noncommittal about how I was stressed about classes. Heaven forbid, in 40 years, I was recorded saying that more socially acceptable story than what actually happened. Then it would mean I wasn’t actually assaulted, right?

      Can’t believe you actually think like this…

    • DS9 says:

      This is actually not a contradictory “story”. It’s likely she thought the pregnancy discrimination aspect was super obvious (it should have been) and what she and her husband discussed is whether or not it was worth it to pursue a similar job after their child was born. And part of that discussion would likely be informed by the again, super obvious risk of being discriminated against in a future pregnancy.

      • amayson1977 says:

        Cosign 100%. Sometimes (often) when people ask me why I made a career change after the birth of my second, I smile and say that I wanted more regular hours and time off with my family. Those close to me know it’s because I was passed over for a very deserved promotion due to the misogynistic and toxic environment at my former company and got fed up and quit when it became apparent that I had been mommy-tracked. I worked for a very successful restaurant company for a decade, and went back to school and am now a paralegal. It’s still painful to me 7 years later, although I am delighted with my new career, and I don’t feel the need to share that information with everyone, nor is sharing acceptable in all circumstances.

  19. Smalltown Girl says:

    I was fired days before my probation period ended and a few days after my pregnancy became obvious and HR asked me about it (in context of maternity leave). At the same
    Time a close friend was also let go during her pregnancy for a flimsy reason. This was in 2011.

  20. Lex says:

    When my mum started work as a young woman in about 1973 she was flat out asked if she was ENGAGED because she wouldn’t have been promoted if she was because she was going to get married and quit apparently (or have kids and ruin their empire lol)

  21. Texas says:

    Back in they day everyone knew you couldn’t be a teacher when pregnant. Happened to my own mom. Even in the 90’s, I worked at a Baptist preschool (against my better judgement) and they acted horrible when they found out I was pregnant. They wouldn’t let me do the job I was hired for – combo gym and activities teacher. I finally just quit.

  22. dreamchild says:

    I was pregnant with my 3rd child in 1986. The manager I worked for was a known misogynistic racist bastard who loved going after pregnant women. In fact the woman whose job I replaced was pregnant. Every woman warned me about him. Of course I became pregnant and I tried to hide it until I was about 5 months. When I finally had to announce my pregnancy he had me come to his office and did everything short of rubbing his hands together and drooling with glee at the harrassment I was about to receive. And boy did that MF deliver. His goal was to harass the woman until she quit, therefore forgoing any benefits or keeping position available. Discrimination rights act had already been passed. Make a long story short I refused to play his game cause I’m a super stubborn Taurus. I not only goaded him into firing me in my 8th month unintentionally, I sued his ass thru AAOC. I was able to receive unemployment benefits and eventually a small settlement. I can’t tell you the satisfaction I got from not letting him bully me but it takes a tremendous toll. I would sit in my car every day after work and allow myself to cry before getting my other kids and home to hubby. Luckily I was young and healthy with an easy pregnancy. I hate to hear this is still going on but am I surprised? Hell no.