In an age when it’s becoming ever more difficult to shock the American public, a revelation this week seems to have rattled many Americans to their core: when people are fired due to discrimination, it is not recorded in the minutes of meetings or in their personnel files. Make room on that fainting couch, folks, I’m feeling a little lightheaded!
Elizabeth Warren would have us believe that in the early 1970s a woman could lose her job due to her pregnancy and—brace yourself—her supervisor or employer wouldn’t have documented that as the reason her employment ended. A public school board could record in its minutes that a woman’s continued employment was supported unanimously before members were aware of her pregnancy, but that would not prevent the school’s principal from firing her when he later learned about it.
That’s the situation in which Warren claims she found herself after her first year of teaching. She claims she was discriminated against by her male employer and, to the surprise of relatively few, there are still those who refuse to believe her account. Undocumented pregnancy discrimination. Have you ever heard of such a thing?!
Granted, two other women who worked in the school district at the same time say that it was common practice for pregnant women to be forced from their jobs by their fifth month of pregnancy. But, despite them telling us it happened, do we really believe this sort of thing happened? Next thing you know, women will be claiming that here it is 40 years later, and they still face pregnancy discrimination!
I suppose we’re also expected to believe people who report sexual harassment face retaliation and lose their jobs for coming forward—and that, too, isn’t documented in their employment files. Should we also accept that people are fired because of their race and there’s no record of that? I mean, if employment discrimination and wrongful terminations really happened, wouldn’t we be able to see those reasons cited in employee annual reviews?
Surely every reason for reprimanding or dismissing an employee is always accurately recorded, isn’t it? “Employee X is disruptive in the workplace because he insists on continuing to be African-American and our workplace only likes white people.” “Employee Y was denied a promotion and later terminated because she refused to surrender to her supervisor’s sexual advances.” “Employee W asked for unreasonable workplace accommodations due to her refusal to be sighted merely because she is visually-impaired.” Oh, please. We weren’t born yesterday!
If there were truly cases where people lost their jobs due to discrimination, then laws would have been passed to address that injustice. Well, yes, there is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that makes it illegal to discriminate against people in the workplace based upon race, religion, ethnicity, or sex. But look, I don’t think there’s anyone who can credibly argue that workplace discrimination continued after 1964—and, if by some small chance it did, surely it would be documented by those committing, enabling, or covering up the discrimination. We all know that if someone were breaking the law, they would document it.
OK. I suppose it’s possible that Title VII didn’t stop discrimination entirely. Fortunately, employers must have been documenting that they were firing women due to their pregnancies because in 1978 the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed.
After all, how could women have otherwise learned they were losing their jobs or not be hired in the first place because they were pregnant, if they weren’t being told outright and the company documented the discrimination? And sure, Warren claims she was dismissed from her job in 1974, four years before the law was enacted, but again, her case wasn’t documented, so the only logical conclusion we can draw is that it just didn’t happen.
These revelations have forced me to take a long, hard look at what I thought my personal experience with sexual harassment and discrimination had been. I never made a report to any of the companies that I worked for until 2017, even though I thought my first experience of sexual harassment happened in 1985. You can imagine my relief now at understanding that the harassment I mistakenly believed I had endured at various jobs beginning at age 15 didn’t really happen.
It couldn’t have. It wasn’t documented. And here I have been all these decades thinking that I didn’t report because the harasser owned the company, or I feared retaliation, or, when I was very young, that it was just part of being female in the workplace and I was expected to tolerate it and remain silent.
So, all of you who have been suffering in silence due to the discrimination, abuse, or assault that you believed had caused you harm, all those who said MeToo but hadn’t reported your harasser—take heart in knowing this: if it wasn’t written down, it never happened. You can now move forward knowing that your experiences weren’t real, your pain is manufactured, opportunities were not denied to you. If it’s not on paper, it’s in your head.
After all, what other explanation could there possibly be?