The topic arose from a discussion with a family member over this past weekend. She had been interviewing with a company for quite some time (more than one month), and during that process, she and her husband became pregnant. Now she faced a dilemma: To tell or not to tell?
Her thoughts were that if she revealed this new bundle of joy on the way, the company would immediately eliminate her from the hiring process and find someone else. And as a recent grad from professional school, she did not want this at all.
Now, why would she even think that the company would automatically cut her out of the picture? Could it be that pregnant women seem to be routinely discriminated against in the workplace?
Below are just a few examples:
- Amy Zvovushe, 31, had a new job (as a senior program manager at a marketing company in Connecticut) and a new baby on the way. Zvovushe says that when she announced her pregnancy at work, she was asked to resign. The company didn’t offer her maternity leave.
- In January 2012, Auckland Now in New Zealand reported that a spray tan specialist Veronica Kloeten was fired by her own aunt who said her pregnancy would be “disgusting and repulsive” to clients. The Employment Relations Authority awarded Kloeten maternity leave, lost wages and an extra $3,000 compensation.
- Jennifer Paviglianiti, a bartender in Suffolk County said was fired from a gentlemen’s club because, according to her boss, “Customers don’t wanna come in and see a pregnant woman behind the bar!” Her employer’s attorney argued that she wasn’t fired and was allowed to return after maternity leave as a cashier – for much less money, CNN reported in March 2010.
Although I’m sure the “horror stories” and statistics on how pregnant women are viewed/treated in the workplace influenced her thoughts, the main reason my family member was hesitant to reveal her pregnancy was because of the manager she, if offered the position, would be working under.
The manager, a woman, openly expressed her disapproval of pregnant women in the workplace. She was unmarried with no children (could this have affected her perspective?).
How do you approach such a difficult scenario as a job seeker? Especially knowing the person you may potentially report to has an issue with your “condition”?
I say honesty is the best policy. Hiding a pregnancy is not only darn near impossible as time goes on, it’s an unnecessary headache. You may as well tell the employer upfront because, sooner or later, the company is sure to find out.
Yet, when you do decide to reveal the truth, don’t be ashamed or feel nervous. Be prepared by knowing that the law is on your side. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.
As a woman, you have the right to be pregnant if you so choose, and this right shouldn’t come at the risk of your job/career. It is illegal for a company to discriminate against pregnancies. So much so that the Act says that instead of shunning pregnant women, as many companies unfortunately do, employers are supposed to “support” and “accommodate” these women. It says:
If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her in the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, the employer may have to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if it does so for other temporarily disabled employees.
I know becoming pregnant while on the job search or even in a position may seem scary and nerve wracking, but don’t allow it to be. Understand your rights and even remind your employer (or potential employer) of them when you explain your condition. Remember, the law is on your side, and if a company is caught discriminating against your pregnancy, believe me, it will be a much scarier and nerve wracking experience for the business.