Fact Check: Elizabeth Warren Falsely Claims She Was Fired from Her First Teaching Job for Being Pregnant

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 25: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (L) looks on during the Democratic presidential primary debate at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. Seven candidates qualified for the debate, …
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CLAIM: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) claimed at the Democrat debate in Charleston, South Carolina, broadcast on CBS Tuesday night that she was fired from her first teaching job for being pregnant. Specifically, Warren said that after she was visibly pregnant, her principal “wished me luck and gave my job to someone else. Pregnancy discrimination? You bet.”

VERDICT: False. Warren has been making this claim on the campaign trail since June 2019, but all the documentary evidence surrounding her departure from her first job as a public school teacher in New Jersey during the 1970-1971 academic year indicates it was voluntary. In a 2007 interview, she also described her departure from that job as voluntary.

CBS reported on the story back in October:

Fresh out of the University of Houston, Warren was hired by the Riverdale Board of Education in New Jersey as a speech pathologist for the 1970-1971 school year. Since she began her campaign for the presidency, she has repeatedly said that she was “shown the door” after just a year as a result of her pregnancy.

“By the end of the first year I was visibly pregnant, and the principal did what principals did in those days: wished me luck, showed me the door, and hired someone else for the job,” she said at a town hall in Oakland in June.

But, as Breitbart News reported in October, 13 years ago Warren described her departure from her first teaching job back in 1971 as voluntary:

In a 2007 interview — first flagged by left-wing Jacobin magazine writer Meagan Day, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America — Warren said that she chose to leave her teaching job as a speech pathologist for disabled children in a public school primarily because she lacked the necessary educational qualifications. “And I went back to graduate school, and took a couple of courses in education, and said, ‘I don’t think this is going to work out for me.’” She added: “And I was pregnant with my first baby, so I had a baby, and I stayed home for a couple of years.”

Also in October, The Washington Free Beacon published minutes of Riverdale Board of Education meetings in 1971 that showed her contract had been extended for a second year, and that when she chose not to accept the additional year of employment, her resignation was accepted by the board “with regret”:

The Riverdale Board of Education approved a second-year teaching contract for a young Elizabeth Warren, documents show, contradicting the Democratic presidential candidate’s repeated claims that she was asked not to return to teaching after a single year because she was “visibly pregnant.”

Minutes of an April 21, 1971, Riverdale Board of Education meeting obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show that the board voted unanimously on a motion to extend Warren a “2nd year” contract for a two-days-per-week teaching job. That job is similar to the one she held the previous year, her first year of teaching. Minutes from a board meeting held two months later, on June 16, 1971, indicate that Warren’s resignation was “accepted with regret.”

Warren’s claim that she was dismissed after her first year of teaching because she was pregnant has become a cornerstone of her stump speeches. She has used it to both explain her jump from teaching into the legal world as well as to showcase the difficulties that women face in the workplace. The principal of the school she worked at in the early 1970s, Warren has said, “showed [her] the door” at the end of the school year because she was “visibly pregnant.”

CBS News also reported in October:

Local newspaper reports from 1971 also present reasons for her leaving the school alternative to what she describes on the trail.  The Paterson News, a local paper, reported that summer that Warren was “leaving to raise a family.” The next month, a story about the school board hiring a replacement said Warren had “resigned for personal reasons,” even though the board had voted to “appoint” Warren to the same speech pathology job that April, according to an earlier report.

Warren has never produced a witness to confirm her often-stated claim that she was “shown the door” in 1971 by her principal, who wished her luck and gave her job to someone else after she was visibly pregnant. All the documentary evidence surrounding her departure from her employment as a teacher by the Riverdale Board of Education shows that it was voluntary, and her own statements made in 2007 also confirm that her departure was voluntary.

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