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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pregnancy Condundrum

Dear Evil HR Lady,

Advise me, if you would be so kind:

I have been at my current job for approximately 3 years. Last month, a new boss was hired. Our work styles clash, and I don't feel I can work successfully and happily with this woman. So, I have begun job hunting.

Last week, I had it confirmed that I am pregnant. About 6 weeks pregnant, as it happens. My feeling is that a prospective employer should be told, but that telling cuts the likelihood that I will actually be offered a position. So, I am torn. In your opinion, what are the ethics of looking for a new job while pregnant? Do I need to reveal the pregnancy before accepting a position? If yes, how early in the process do you recommend bringing up the topic?

Thanks in advance for sharing your views.


Dear Newly Pregnant,

First, congratulations! May your pregnancy be uneventful and your nausea at a minimum. Second, excellent question.

But, before we get to your question, I say a few things. Are you sure you really want to look for a new job? FMLA does not apply to you if you have worked for a company for less than a year. This means that even if your new company was otherwise subject to FMLA, they wouldn't have to honor it for you. This, in practical terms, means you aren't guarenteed 12 weeks off (unpaid) to care for your newborn.

In addition, is your healthcare through your current job? If you jump from one job to another, make sure you don't have any break in coverage. Some jobs give you coverage from your first day, others make you wait 3 months for coverage. If your new job is one with a 3 month wait, and your insurance lapses during that time, your pregnancy will be considered a "pre-existing condition" and you won't be covered. You can avoid this problem by using COBRA, but that could be expensive.

If you are not planning on coming back to work after the baby, save yourself the hassle and stay at your current job.

But, assuming that FMLA, insurance, and returning to work aren't issues for you, let's attack the job hunt.

I agree with you that you should tell a prospective employer of your pregnancy. Now, please understand you are not legally obligated to do so. Employers cannot legally discriminate against you because you are pregnant, but can refuse to hire you for other legitimate reasons. A lot of the reasons why one candidate is chosen over another is management preference, and discrimination is hard to prove. (If in fact, you would be someone who would sue if you weren't hired, I wouldn't recommend telling the interviewer that you are pregnant at all.)

But, if you disclose the pregnancy and are hired you already know you are going to be working for a boss that won't hold the pregnancy against you and he or she is much more likely to be sympathetic to the needs you'll have as a new mother. That's the kind of boss you want anyway.

I will be honest and say that there will be some jobs you won't be considered for because of the pregnancy. But, since you are in the luxurious position of already having a job, remember you don't want to work for someone like that anyway. I know in my experience, finding the right person for a position can be very difficult, so if you were the right person, I'd have no problem hiring you--even at the late stages of pregnancy.

Of course, don't bring it up first thing. "Hi, I'm Jill and I'm pregnant. Boy, that morning sickness is something, eh?" is not how you want to introduce yourself. Bring it up at the end of the interview and emphasize how much you are interested in the job, and how you are the right person and you'll be back after your brief maternity leave. Be positive. Be the right person and you'll be hired. Your new boss will respect your honesty.

Happy Job Hunting!

Evil HR Lady

4 comments:

FHL said...

Mind if I ask a tangential question?

Who is COBRA really intended for? It's soooo expensive and there you are, out of work. I understand that it can be helpful if you are looking to not have the break in coverage. I've just had to weigh the "pay X amount for COBRA" or just risk it and hope nothing happens. (I usually pick the latter. So far so good.)

I guess I've just never understood why it even exists. And then I wonder how socialized medicine would affect us. =)

Evil HR Lady said...

Your question is really a big one. The thing with COBRA is that it can be cheaper than securing your own health insurance, especially if you have a health condition that makes it nearly impossible to obtain insurance on your own.

I'll have to do a whole post about COBRA some day.

Anonymous said...

I am 5 months pregnant and had an interview today. I have been having difficulty getting a job and I really wanted to get this legal secretary job. So, I elected not to say anything about my pregnancy. Lo and behold, I was offered the position and I accepted. Since I am usually a very honest person, I have been riddled with guilt ever since. I don't know if I should call back and give them the low-down on my pregnancy and offer them the chance to reconsider their offer or just show up for my new job in a day and tell them then. What do you recommend?

Anonymous said...

I have recently started a new job and my former employer is a 49% owner. I have also discovered and shared that I am pregnant. They are refusing to cover me under FMLA. Is there any negotiating terms for my leave? Can I ask my employer to cover me at all? They currently want me to pay in full for my benefits while on leave. This is impossible for me. Are there any choices or employers that are willing to assist in more tolerable terms of a leave?