Maternal Profiling—Single Moms as a Suspect Class

My thanks to Deborah Pearlstein for her thoughtful reply , which illustrates well the professional disregard for both women and family in academia as well as in the law firm and corporate contexts—though, by virtue of de facto independent contractor status of most professors, the groves of academe are sweet compared to the bitter hardships borne by single moms. I’ve been helping a single mom in my parish church for the last several weeks try to retrieve her car from an impound lot when the sheriff towed it (after her ex-husband turned her in for various alleged vehicle-code violations). Stepping into her well-worn shoes for even these brief moments has been unnerving, to say the least. To make an unbelievable story short, after several continuances (which took no account of her job or child-care responsibilities), the judge recognized the charges to be more spousal spite than legal breach, and dismissed. When single mom went to get her car, the city had (wrongfully) sold it, and so now we begin a civil action which will no doubt worsen the Bleak House nature of it all. In the meantime, she knows the car is out there somewhere, because, apparently, the city sold it to a scofflaw who is running up parking tickets under her registration.

This personal experience merged together this morning with Deborah’s intervention of her own experience among the haughty con-law fraternity and another response to my earlier post , this one from a reader who forwarded an article on “maternal profiling” which suggests that in some places—Pennsylvania (which has a primary, last time I looked, later this month)—employers are not only turning a dismissive eye on the value of family like our professor “colleagues” and the law firms but actually and brazenly (and apparently lawfully) discriminating against single women with a family. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , Pennsylvania state law allows employers to inquire into one’s maternal status and use that openly to make an adverse hiring decision.

The presidential candidates are crisscrossing the keystone kingdom, and while sometimes they are accused of floating at levels of generality that exceed my vagueness in the classroom, on this topic, they stand amidst tangible opportunities to bring worthwhile change to the lives of, apparently, one of Pennsylvania’s most suspect classes (presently without the benefit of strict scrutiny, of course): single moms.