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Stories + Data from the PAAL Caregiver/Family Discrimination Survey

The Stories:

Stage Manager

"While working as a production stage manager, the production manager required that I work 12-15 hour days immediately following a miscarriage, and later while 9 months pregnant, including while teching a show in early labor. When I returned from maternity leave, he allowed directors to harass me about asking for rehearsal coverage, openly challenged and confronted me about needing more than 10 min breaks to pump (in front of up to 60 people), and refused to allow a flexible work schedule to accommodate childcare needs. After complaining to his supervisor and having a mediated conversation with one of the directors who was harassing me, I was asked to sign a letter taking responsibility for the situation (I refused)."


"I submitted for a producing gig at a major presenting/producing org in NYC. During the interview, it came up that I was a new mom, and it was basically over after that. They totally ghosted."

Actor/Single Mother

"I am a single mother, after clearing it with the female director of the play I am in I brought my son to the theater on a weekend as I cannot afford childcare on the AEA wage. The male company manager wrote to me to tell me my child was not welcome to come."

Administrative Staff

"As a staff member before opening, I was told not to have any more children by the owners in front of twenty people in a staff meeting. I was the only woman in the room, at the time my twins had turned one and I was secretly 3 months pregnant. I turned down the job (as educational director and director of children's theatre) and received two better offers. (NY)"

Admin/Foster Care

"I was a foster parent starting a new role in the company. I had been with the company for awhile. I had just adopted my son and wanted to take my baby bonding time. My new manager said that would not be wise since I just started this new role."


"The female director herself had a baby 3 weeks younger than mine. However she insisted that I would be needed 10am-6pm for rehearsals which meant I couldn’t get home in time to feed my baby before bed. She however was only going to be at rehearsals 10am-4pm as the Musical Director was going to run the rehearsals from 4pm-6pm. This allowed her to go home and see her baby and give her dinner, a bath, feed and put her to bed. No such luck for me. After I had to turn down these two jobs, they didn’t offer me anything again."


"My wife, who is a costume designer, and I were being considered for a project. When the director found out that we were having a baby, the tone shifted and they were no longer willing to negotiate or make simple accommodations around our schedule. The director said to me 'why are we still talking about this, you aren’t available. When my wife and I had a baby I needed to take off for several months...'"


"I work in a theater department at a university. I explained multiple times that I can't go to 5pm meetings, as I can't pick up my child from daycare, get him bed and bathed and prepped for the babysitter, then be ready to go to a 4-hour rehearsal at 6:30. I've stated this every time I've been invited to a 5pm meeting. This has completely gone unnoticed. I either end up scrambling and bringing my toddler, or missing meetings. This has been going on for a year now."


"Offered potential work, bumped into them in street with my baby. They seemed shocked at how young my child was ...never heard from them again"

Primary Financial Officer

"Throughout my pregnancy, I actually felt supported by the theater where I'd been the primary financial officer for almost three years. It was a small theater where parental leave had never before come up and there was no policy in place, but they agreed to a 12-week leave, which would use up all my accrued sick/vacation time and then be unpaid. I became suspicious 6 weeks after my baby was born, when I contacted the artistic director (to whom I reported directly) to set my return date, and she clearly dodged my calls. Finally, nine weeks into my maternity leave, she informed me that I was fired, or more specifically that they had "decided to go a different direction." I demanded to know why, but all her answers were vague. So I requested, in writing, a copy of my personnel file, which I received a week AFTER being fired. That's how I discovered, for the first time, that the file contained memos from two board members documenting every mistake I'd made since I'd first stepped into the role -- which I'd done with no on-boarding, at a time of severe under-staffing. Although some of the mistakes had happened two years earlier, the ONLY documentation in my employee file was dated about two weeks after I'd announced my pregnancy. The incidents had not come up during my only employee review in my duration of working there. All the artistic director's notes from my only formal review were handwritten in incomplete sentences. Nor had any concerns with my performance come up while I prepared for my leave through extensive conversations and document-generation detailing all my responsibilities. It appeared that the only negative or even full-sentence documentation of my performance was made secretly from me, just after the announcement of my pregnancy. The memos appeared to be drawn from older memories, and, while I remembered some details differently, I would need access to my company email or files to document of my version. I had also taken the initiative of devising and implementing a number of new procedures that prevented some of the board's complaints from ever happening again -- which these board members certainly knew but did not mention. The employee file also contained a memo from the artistic director retroactively explaining the decision to fire me, in which she explicitly wrote that months earlier she had planned to give me a second employee review, but that she had decided not to because I was pregnant."


"Audition cancelled because I was pregnant and apparently the company couldn’t consider me for the tour as they wouldn’t be able to insure me."


"Offered an acting job but the offer was withdrawn because I was 8 weeks pregnant and would be heavily pregnant by the end of the run."


"I was employed by a major NYC non-profit for 10 years. Two years of this time I was a full time staff member of the lighting department, after which I left to pursue a Masters Degree. I returned to the theater as a freelancer...Toward the beginning of my seventh month of pregnancy a full time staff member was fired and the head of the department asked if I would fill in for that office position temporarily until they found someone to fill the position. I was asked specifically as a favor to the department because I had completed the duties in the past in my time as a staff member and would not need to be trained. They then offered me 7 dollars an hour less than I was making as a stagehand for this temporary work. I told them I unfortunately could not accept a pay cut (my hourly rate being what it was after the dedication and experience of being with the organization for a decade) and would prefer to remain in my current position as freelance electrician. I was already booked for several more weeks of work in that position and at that rate. I complete those weeks of work with no problems, as a functioning and integral member of the crew. I was not hired again for the changeover for the next show, with no discussion of why. I was told by an assistant in the department that the Lighting Supervisor had specifically said not to hire me anymore. When I did not hear from the department again I sent an email expressing my dismay at not being hired, at which point I was offered a few meager days of work. At that time I complained to a member of production management that it was unacceptable to punish a pregnant crew member who was still an active part of the crew by forcing them into a lower paying job. Those days were my last offer of any employment from the theater for which I worked for a decade. There was never a discussion about my abilities shifting during pregnancy. I know for a fact that crew members were hired to do jobs like cutting color that required sitting for a week at a time. Not only was I qualified to do this at 7-8 months pregnant, I was overqualified. They made me lose out on the last months of solid paychecks I would be able to get before having a baby. Because I was a freelancer I had no maternity leave coming to me, which I knew in advance. Because of their blatant mishandling of the situation, I also had no work during my third trimester and no suggestion or offer to return to work post-partum."


"I was double cast at a theater and had my ten month old daughter with me. My husband couldn't be there until after the first show opened, so I was juggling a month of child care on my own...I asked about the rehearsal schedule and they sent a document that said rehearsals would be sometime between 11am and 11pm six days a week and they'd let us know the schedule for the next day at 10pm the night before. I was playing a tiny role, so I appealed to the young female director, saying that if at all possible could she let me know in advance the rough schedule and try to call me close to the times I'd actually be needed, since it would help me out a lot in terms of scheduling child care and breaking even on those costs. I said I understood that she might have to make some changes along the way and I would gladly be flexible. I said that when I was in the rehearsal room, I would be completely focused on my work. She didn't reply. When I arrived the first day, she made a pointed speech about how she likes everyone in the room full time the first two weeks of rehearsal. The female artistic director gave me a speech about how she remembered handing over her full paycheck to the sitter when she was an actress with young children. I didn't complain or make a fuss. Just smiled and made it work...After the first two weeks of work...she started working on individual scenes and staggering calls. But she called me for scenes I wasn't needed for, sometimes making me sit through hours of rehearsal before sending me home without using me at all. She'd smirk at me when she let me go. It felt personal. I felt like I was being punished simply for having a child. The fact that it was a female director made it feel worse. If I hadn't loved the other play, I would have left, but I didn't want to sacrifice a job I loved because of one biased woman."


What best describes the Human Resources support provided at this time?

"The company was too small to have an employee dedicated to human resources. HR was managed between the artistic director who fired me and myself. Before receiving a copy of my employee file, I left a voice message for a board member whom I know to be an employment attorney, in which I stated that I had some questions. But he only emailed me that he fully deferred to the artistic director."

- Survey Participant

What best describes the legal assistance you received?

"I didn't seek legal assistance because I didn't want to go back to the job after this incident, and because I knew too well that the theater didn't have any money. I also had a new baby to take care of and didn't have the energy for a prolonged fight. I remain proud of our artistic work, and I still respect the artists, the same-level colleagues, and the underlings who had no input in my firing. For their sake and for my plan of someday finding another job in the small theater community, I really don't want to become known as the person who tried to put that theater out of business. Which would seem to be my only recourse. I did at least receive state unemployment benefits, despite the theater's attempt to fight them. In the administrative unemployment case, the state ruled that I had not committed any 'willful misconduct.'"

- Survey Participant

Primary theatrical discipline:

Primarily freelance vs. resident/permanently employed:

Years of experience in primary discipline:

Level of education in primary discipline:

Did your parent-artist experience with discrimination happen in the United States?

At what stage of parenting did you experience discrimination?

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