Job discrimination? Legal? yup.
The gist is that in PA (as well as many other states), discrimination on the basis of marital status and children is legal-- there is a bill circulating in the state to end hiring discrimination, but for now this story is common... here are excerpts (it's not so well written, but the actual content is interesting)
***********KIKI'S STORY: GETTING REAL IN PA***********
A single mother of two, Kiki moved to a small, one stoplight Pennsylvania town in 1994. She was truly on her own. Her husband had left several years earlier, when her children were two and four years old.... Kiki left Long Island City in search of a smaller city with a lower cost of living.
With this move, Kiki and the kids were alone in a new town that had just two supermarkets and several diners serving a variety of aromatically enticing pork, sauerkraut, and dumpling dishes. It was just the change she wanted. Kiki was able to buy a Dutch Colonial Cape Cod house at the top of a “small mountain” in the Poconos with nearly two acres of land for a fraction of the price of her old house. It seemed ideal, until she started looking for a job to support her family.
"DO YOU HAVE CHILDREN?"
On a hot, humid August day, at an interview for a legal secretary position in a one-story brick building, Kiki sat down in a hard wooden chair to face a middle-aged attorney... “The first question the attorney asked me when I came in for the interview was, ‘Are you married?’ The second was, ‘Do you have children?’”
It was the eleventh job interview in which she’d been asked the very same questions since moving to Pennsylvania. After answering eleven times that she wasn’t married, and that yes indeed, she was a mother of two, Kiki began to understand why her job search was taking so long.
She decided to address the issue head on this time, “I asked him how those questions were relevant to the job, and he said my hourly wage would be determined by my marital and motherhood status.” Kiki then asked the next obvious question: “How do you figure out an hourly wage based on these questions?”
THIS CAN'T BE LEGAL! (BUT IT IS):
His response was as candid as it was horrifying, “He said if you don’t have a husband and have children, then I pay less per hour because I have to pay benefits for the entire family.” The attorney noted that a married woman’s husband usually had health insurance to cover the kids, and since Kiki didn’t have a husband, he was very clear that he “didn’t want to get stuck with the bill for my children’s health coverage.”
...It was the first time Kiki pushed for an explanation, and she was appalled by the answer. “I said to him, ‘You mean to tell me that if I am doing the exact same work, typing the same exact subpoena as a coworker, you’re going to pay me less because I have no husband and have kids?’ And he very smugly told me, ‘Yes, absolutely.’”
He couldn’t do that, it was illegal, Kiki wondered, wasn’t it? The attorney countered that it was perfectly legal—and as an attorney, he ought to know. He invited Kiki to check out the law herself and then ushered her out the door (without a job, of course).
She found out that the lawyer was right. The questions were legal, as was paying a single mother less than other applicants.
Pennsylvania, like scores of states, does not have state employment laws that protect mothers.
THE SAD TRUTH:
The sad truth is that Kiki isn’t struggling alone. Recent Cornell University research by Dr. Shelley Correll confirmed what many American women are finding: Mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers who have the same résumé, experience, and qualifications; and mothers are offered significantly lower starting pay (study participants offered non-mothers an average of $11,000 more than mothers) for the same job as equally qualified non-mothers.
The “maternal wall” is a reality we must address if we value both fair treatment in the workplace and the contributions working mothers make to our economy.