Sunday, March 29, 2009

Some gendered implications of "pink slips"

Two NY Times stories in the past few days have used the term "pink slips" -- and not in reference to an item of women's lingere. "Pink slip" is, of course, a colloquialism for a notice of termination from employment. While there is nothing inherently gendered about a "pink slip" as far as I know, both stories nevertheless have gendered implications.

The first was in today's paper and is titled "Fighting over Child Support after the Pink Slip Arrives." In it, Julie Bosman reports on the great number of parents--mostly fathers--who are seeking to reduce the amount they pay each month to custodial parents (mostly mothers) in child support. They are seeking these reductions either because they have lost their jobs, changed to lower-paying jobs, or simply anticipate a reduction in income. The individual stories featured are very sobering. Of particular interest to me is one judge's apparent tendency to reduce the amount of child support because he figures a custodial parent is better receiving less--sometimes much less--than nothing at all, which is what might happen if a father becomes homeless, etc.

In the other story, "When the Stork Carries a Pink Slip," Lesley Alderman points out that neither laying off a pregnant woman nor laying off a woman on maternity leave is a violation of federal law. All the employer has to do is articulate some basis for the decision other than the pregnancy or maternity leave. Here's an excerpt from the story:
To be sure, it is illegal to dismiss someone or refuse to hire her specifically because she is pregnant, according to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But few employers are foolish enough to cite pregnancy as the reason for firing or not hiring someone.
On the whole, the impact of the economic downturn on women is not a pretty picture.

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