Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tests Discriminate Against New and Expectant Mothers

Perinatal Mood Disorders

Perinatal Mood Disorders (PMD) are a set of disorders that can occur anytime during pregnancy and the first year postpartum and include depression, anxiety, panic, Obsessive-Compulsive  Disorder, PTSD and Postpartum Psychosis. Over  800,000 cases are reported in the U.S. each year, making PMD the most common maternal health complication.

Every woman is at risk regardless of age, race or financial status.While it is impossible to predict who will develop PMD, certain risk factors have been identified, including:

  • Previous episode of PMD
  • Depression during pregnancy
  • History of depression or bipolar disorder
  • Recent stressful life events
  • Inadequate social supports
  • Marital problem
Without appropriate intervention, PMD can have long term and adverse implications for both the mother and the child.

Employment and Postpartum Depression

In a study published in 2010, the prevalence of postpartum depression was 13.8%. The study found that employment was significantly associated with a reduced risk of postpartum depression: When employment was classified into 2 categories, full-time, but not part-time, employment was independently inversely associated with postpartum depression - i.e., employed mothers were less likely to experience postpartum depression.

Depression is positively associated with poverty and unemployment, as these are significant stressors

Illegally Screening Out New and Expectant Mothers from Employment Consideration

As noted in the ADA, FFM and DSM post, pre-employment personality tests utilize the five-factor  (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism), model of personality to create one or more profiles of a "model" employee. That profile usually specifies low levels of neuroticism and higher levels of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion and agreeableness.

Applicants with mental illnesses, like new or expectant mothers experiencing PMD, tend to have a personality profile that conflicts with one or more elements of the "model" employee profile - higher neuroticism and/or lower openness, conscientiousness, extraversion and agreeableness. 

Thus, an FFM-based assessment illegally screen out new and expectant mothers experiencing PMD from employment consideration. As a consequence, these structural barriers to employment create significant challenges for women experiencing PMD, including:
  • Limiting access to healthcare resources for the women and their children
  • Creating additional stressful life events
  • Removing access to social supports provided by a work environment

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