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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

job-hunting while pregnant

A reader writes:

I was laid off in July and am currently job hunting. I am also 10 weeks pregnant right now. I am 37 and this is my first pregnancy after several years of failed fertility treatments. I am thrilled, but I have been keeping the news very quiet until I am safely past the first trimester.

I had a second interview this week for one job, and they have already checked my references, so an offer may be forthcoming shortly. My question is when I should tell a potential new employer. I figure I have a few options:

1) Tell them during the interview process, which is technically still ongoing. I am not in favor of this option, as I think all it would do is put me at a disadvantage. Although it could help weed out family-unfriendly companies, it just feels like an irrelevant piece of personal information at the moment.

2) Tell them after I get an offer. I have been leaning towards this option, as I want to avoid appearing to pull a bait-and-switch on them (especially because I know the hiring manager who would be my supervisor personally; he is the husband of one of my husband's co-workers and we have hung out socially a few times). I know that legally they are not supposed to take pregnancy into consideration with a job candidate, but it would be hard to prove that they did if they rescinded the offer. This would also give me a chance to find out about/negotiate for a maternity leave policy, since I will not have been at the company long enough for my job to be protected under the Family & Medical Leave Act. Telling them in this timeframe feels like the best compromise to me between being honest and still having some leverage.

3) Tell them a couple of days after I am hired. They'll be stuck with me at that point. I don't like this option.

4) Tell them 1 or 2 months after I start, hopefully before I begin to show. I read one advice column advocating this method. The advantage is that by this time you've hopefully proven yourself as a reliable employee and could deliver the news matter-of-factly, telling them that you are just now going public with the information and couldn't be happier. The problems I see here are that: a) They might not have anyone start until after the 1st of the year, which means I'd be waiting until at least February to tell them; b) it still feels a bit like a bait-and-switch; and c) I am afraid the stress of keeping this a secret from them might eat me up inside.

First, congratulations on your pregnancy!

I'd go with option #2 -- tell them once you get the offer.

I wouldn't raise it before you get an offer, because even at many family-friendly places and even despite the law that prohibits discriminating based on pregnancy, plenty of interviewers are still going to think, "We have that big event right when she'll be out on maternity leave, and candidate B, who is not pregnant, would be able to be there for it." It's human nature. Don't risk that.

But you're pretty safe raising it once you have the offer, because rescinding it that point would look an awful lot like pregnancy discrimination, which is prohibited by law.

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes. You negotiate AFTER the offer, but BEFORE the acceptance. It gives you a little bit of leverage, without looking like you're pulling a bait and switch. You're being upfront and honest, so they might be more willing to work something out for your time off work. Congratulations and best of luck!

class factotum said...

Good luck on getting a job, but I think you should tell them before they make the decision to make an offer.

Yes. It is reasonable for an employer to consider whether or not you will be working seven months hence. If they hire you, they are going to at the least have to find someone to do your work while you are out with the baby. (You're not planning to go back to work the day after you deliver, are you?)

And then there is the possibility that you might decide you don't want to work any more once you have the baby, in which case they have to find someone to replace you.

I would never hire someone I knew was pregnant, legal or not. I want someone who is going to show up to work. I don't want to have to go through the whole hiring process again in a few months or even find a temp. Having a baby is going to take someone out of the office either temporarily or permanently. Why bother?

Ask a Manager said...

Class Factotum, while I agree an employer should be able to consider that factor, in the U.S. it's actually illegal for them to. I don't particularly agree with that law, but there it is.

class factotum said...

Manager, it drives me crazy that it's illegal! But even if it's illegal for the employer to consider it, I think it's unethical for someone to take a job knowing she is going to for sure be out in 7 months and maybe quitting after them. It's the same as knowing your spouse has a job transfer coming up in a few months and you'll be quitting. You shouldn't waste someone's time like that (unless, of course, he agrees to have it wasted.)

For the record, I stopped my job search once I was accepted in the Peace Corps. I had nine months before I was supposed to leave and I told that to the company where I had interviewed twice. If they still wanted to hire me with that information, fine, but I didn't want to get a job under false pretenses. (Are there any other kind of pretenses?)

Ask a Manager said...

I agree with you; I think it should be just like any other factor, like the examples you gave, and employers should be entitled to consider it. (And I say this as a woman and thus someone who could theoretically benefit from the law at some point, but I still disagree with it.)

Anonymous said...

Wow, interesting to see so much prejudice here among some of the commenters against pregnancy in the workplace. No wonder we are not seen as a very family-friendly country.

I wrote the original question to this blog, and I received my job offer before seeing the response. I consulted with several friends and former colleagues, including some who are hiring managers and some who have kids (some fit both descriptions). The overwhelming advice I got was to wait to break the news until after I have begun work at the new job.

If I told them during the interview or offer process, they could not legally discriminate against me, but I'd still be entering the job as somewhat "damaged goods." This way I'll have a chance to establish myself as a known, reliable worker and still give them about 6 months notice about the birth of my baby.

Pregnancy is a fact of life and business and is something that companies do have to deal with, even when it is inconvenient. But the fact is that I need a job now and will need to work after the baby comes. It's hard to predict the future, but I feel that this will all work out for the best.

-Knocked Up & Unemployed

class factotum said...

I'm not prejudiced against pregnancy in the workplace; I'm prejudiced against an employer not having all the information before making a hiring decision.

Suppose you're the manager. You have the budget to hire someone to replace the person who quit. You have to pay the recruiting expenses -- ads and the time for someone to screen, interview and check on applicants. You go through all of this and hire someone who is not going to be working for a couple of weeks (at least) in a few months? Then you have to find a temp or even possibly a replacement when the new mom decides not to return to work. All that training and those recruiting expenses, down the drain.

Just because you go on leave doesn't mean your work goes away. I worked in a small office in Chile. Two of the six women were out on maternity leave at the same time. We had to pay them for the full time they were out (three months), so couldn't afford to hire a temp. Even though they were gone, their work did not go away, so the rest of us had to take up the slack.

Granted, they were hired before they got pregnant, but this is what happens: someone else gets stuck doing your work and the employer has to deal with an absent and maybe quitting employee.

So. I don't care if someone wants to hire you while you are pregnant. I just think you need to disclose your pregnancy before they make an offer.

Anonymous said...

Class Factorum,

Shame on you. I loathe parents who don't pull their weight in the office because of recitals and such, but shame on you for your ignorance.

I'm guessing you're in California by the full-time pay period of those out on parental leave, but let me point out a couple things:

This candidate will not be eligible for FMLA. Simply won't. She may not even be eligible for a company leave policy after only being there for 6 months. But it's the risk you take. Who's to say my mother doesn't fall ill in six months and I have to take care of her? Who's to say I won't fall ill myself? Who's to say that I won't (gasp) take a vacation? And recruitment really isn't THAT huge of a cost. And if it is, it's usually budgetted at the beginning of the fiscal year.

I am bothered by the fact that this candidate chose to lie (withholding a vital piece of information is lying and if I were the person who onboarded her, I would make it clear to her that I would have appreciated knowing earlier) and accept the position, because she owes it to her employers to give them as much time as possible to prepare for her leave. But honestly? To outright discriminate? It's ignorant (and illegal).

LegalSecretary said...

"It's the same as knowing your spouse has a job transfer coming up in a few months and you'll be quitting".

My husband is in the Army. He is ALWAYS going to get a job transfer. Period. That's the way the Army works. Are you suggesting that I should never be hired because my spouse will ALWAYS have a job transfer coming up? THANK GOODNESS over the years I have found employers in six different states who didn't think that way, and instead hired me based on my resume, skills & references, and in return I worked hard, was a dedicated employee and gave them 100% during my short time working for them. In return, instead of feeling they "wasted their time" with me, they have continued to give me great references when I'm trying to find a job in the next state. Thank goodness my husband is out there defending your right to say/post whatever you want and thank goodness I have found wonderful employers over the years who were not short-sighted when it came to hiring me.

class factotum said...

Oh for crying out loud. Anon, re-read my comments. I didn't say employers shouldn't hire someone who's pregnant, I said the pregnant applicant needs to disclose that information. I also think an employer SHOULD be allowed to let that information affect the hiring decision. Yes, I know it's illegal. Yes, I disagree with that law.

Legal secretary, my dad fought for the right for me to say these things and is dead as a result of his time in the military, so I have earned my stripes on this. Did I say to lie about your husband being in the army? No. I just think it is relevant information that should be disclosed. I am assuming that you explain your situation and they hire you anyhow, which is FINE. It's the lack of disclosure that bothers me.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the same situtation now, except I'm 4 months pregnant, just starting to show, and looking for a job that I will desperately need.
In my experience of applying for jobs, prior to being pregnant, I have had several employers ask if I knew of any upcoming time that I would not be able to work. Even if they are not meaning to in-directly ask if you are pregnant, it puts you in the position of either having to lie to them or risk not getting the position just because your pregnant, which I know is illegal but of course, like many have you have said, I'm sure they can come up with another "legal" reason for not hiring you.
I think I would wait until the job is offered to disclose the pregnancy, to avoid prejudice and allow them to really look at my skills, not just my pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

How would a pregnant women make money to support herself and family if every job discriminated against her? She needs more now than she did before she was pregnant because she has a live being to care for. She is trying to make an honest living and no one should take that from her for any reason. She wants to work, not be at home collecting. Give her props for that and dont be unprofessional as to say you would not want to hire again, THAT is discrimination.

Anonymous said...

Our firm just hired a woman who is 8 months pregnant. It's winter and she managed to conceal the fact under heavy clothing and never brought up that she was pregnant - let alone, 8 months pregnant until she'd been hired as a full time worker. Then, ta-dah! shows up on her fist day with full belly in tow. We are short on staff and stressed and over-worked as it is; tempers were short and nerves frayed already and now this. As it happens her due date even coincides with a co-workers long awaited and carefully planned vacation. To top it, she seems to be under the impression that she should be doing less work than anyone else due to her "condition". It sucks but there's not much anyone can do about it and now we are expected to shoulder the additional burden when she takes her leave just one month after having been hired. It's not so much the fact that she is pregnant, but that she was grossly deceptive that bothers every one the most, and the fact that she has now forced every one into such an awkward and further stressed situation. Of course, deception always follows deception. Because she hasn't proven to be at all what she claims to be, we are begrudgingly bearing the brunt of the extra work this is creating, besides.

Anonymous said...

I am 13wks pregnant and have worked at the company I currently work for for almost 4 years. I have had a baby and came back to this job and being pregnant or having a child did not effect my performance. I have been unhappy at my job for some time and have been applying to other jobs. It is not a LIE not to tell an employer your pregnant and you should feel no guilt for not telling them. I will not tell anyone at an interview that I am currently pregnant and that is my right. Besides that I have not even told most of my family or friends so why should my employer be considered before my own family! At the end of the day I know I'm an outstanding employee for any company to have. Managers will discriminate against you if they know you are pregnant and I understand a point. Life is full of what if's and managers must work around those what if's, it is their JOB. Be a pregnant woman, a diagnosis of cancer, sudden illness or simply someone who really doesn't feel like being a good employee.