Saturday, March 28, 2009

When the Stork Carries a Pink Slip

My reaction upon seeing the headline, since I've blogged about an article entitled "When Patients Feel Abandoned By Doctors," was to check if this was some sort of "When..." health series. The articles were written by two different people, but both "When..." headlines invite the reader to find out what's going on and why.

The lead is also inviting and surprising. I know as a reader I'm more engaged by a quiz than I am by a list of facts. But this topic would lend itself well to a variety of powerful leads. Many people might start with a description of a woman who has been laid off due to pregnancy--the article about child caregivers from one of my earlier posts starts with that sort of heart-wrenching lead.

I thought "national layoff tsunami" was an interesting choice of words. I guess it's been five years since the tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people, so that's not an off-limits metaphor anymore. It seems like a fitting illustration, though--layoffs sweeping in, affecting everyone in their path. But the article tries to point to a trend towards layoffs of pregnant women.

Alderman quotes a lawyer who says that employers are using the economy as a pretense for laying off just one person; the economy is the excuse for discrimination against older employees or pregnant employees, the lawyer says. The article never really nails down if that's true or not. Yes, charges of discrimination have gone up. Yes, we can find people who have been fired while pregnant. But Alderman practically refutes herself: Sarah Feider, example number one, was let go during company cutbacks. Example number two's position was eliminated companywide, the article says. Poonam Sharma, example number three, was one of seven people let go from a 70-person firm. So none of these cases illustrate this "using the economy as a pretense for laying off just one person."

It also would have been nice to have the employer's side of the story. There are several people making claims about discrimination but the employers don't get a chance to defend themselves. Or maybe there would be an employer willing to admit to Sharma's argument being true: women on maternity leave aren't working on projects that would be disrupted if they were let go.

Despite these problems that I have with the article, there are some great quotes. I especially like Feider's, "Instead of being given an office baby shower, I was given a pink slip." Each of the three women who were fired while pregnant/on maternity leave illustrate the sting of being laid off in a different way. Feider argues that it was morally wrong with the quote about her friends. Kevorkian focuses more on the vulnerability of the unemployed pregnant woman. Sharma is the logical and financial part. In this way, Alderman's sources are diverse, but they're only diverse on one side of the issue.

1 comment:

  1. You're absolutely right. The writer should've given a voice to the employers and get their perspective on the trend of lay offs. However, I could see that reporters would be treading in dangerous waters, especially if they got a tip off from one of the interviewees that a certain employer was laying off pregnant women. The employers would want to know who gave them the information. This would require scrutiny under the ethics of source protection and confidentiality. Still it wouldn't hurt to look for sources from the "other side."

    The quote about the "pink slip" seemed a little delayed in this article. I didn't understand the headline until that 13th or so paragraph. However, the lead compensates for the possible confusion that readers might get bouncing between the headline and the story content because it's creative yet straight forward.

    The writer does a wonderful job of letting the sources play off of one another. There is no use of personal opinion because the sources do all the explaining. Very good insight into stories of three pregnant women who were unemployed upon going through labor or maternity leave.