For years, Mexican business have required women seeking employment to submit to mandatory pregnancy tests, and have fired women who become pregnant.
Employers say they have a right to know if a potential employee is pregnant because they simply can’t afford to pay for the 12 weeks paid maternity leave they must provide if a woman goes on maternity leave less than 30 weeks after she began working for them. In Mexico, Social Security covers the cost of maternity leave only when that leave begins more than 30 weeks after employment was first instated.
Tomas Natividad Sanchez, a lawyer who represents business on labor issues, contends, “Young women have the right to get pregnant, but obviously they don’t have the right to make someone else pay for it.” Martinez Barrera, a representative of the Coparmex business group, offers another argument in favor of mandatory pregnancy tests. She argues that the tests are necessary to protect women from jobs which may endanger a fetus. “You can decide to take a physical risk, but I don’t need to make myself an accomplice.”
Women’s rights activists contend that current sex discrimination law makes mandatory pregnancy testing illegal, but that pressuring the government to enforce these law may be counterproductive for women. “The employer can simply adopt the position ‘Perfect, I can’t request pregnancy tests. I simply won’t hire women,” explained Angelica Gonzalez Valencia, director of equity for the Mexican Labor Secretariat. Soaring unemployment rates have discouraged women from making complaints.
Mexico’s three major political parties have each issued legislation which would clearly prohibit employers from requesting pregnancy-tests. However, each of these laws is tied to a larger package of labor reforms which will be difficult to pass.