I may be able to get a really great job with a really great company. However, I’m in the early stages of pregnancy and I’m concerned about how to handle it. I know it’s illegal to discriminate against pregnant women, but let’s face it — it happens.
So here’s the deal. Do I risk rejection by telling the employer about my situation up front or do I tell them after they make an offer and risk losing the offer? Or, should I wait until I am settled in the job and then lower the boom, but risk alienating my employer?
I am a dedicated worker and I take any job I have seriously. I intend to return to work pretty quickly after the baby comes because we need the income. I’d appreciate your advice. I am only nine weeks along and can probably hide my condition until quite a while after they hire me. Thanks.
Another reader recently asked me essentially the same question, but he’s not pregnant. He’s got a serious chronic condition and wanted to know when to disclose it to the employer. The answer to both is much the same, and it’s founded on whether the candidate’s condition will have a material effect on their ability to do the job as promised.
I don’t want to get into a tirade about the challenges women face when job hunting, or in advancing their careers. But I’ll say it: Women have a harder time in the workplace than men. Women earn less for doing the same jobs as men and don’t get promoted as often.
Where do job candidates come from?
Employers also worry about women having babies. Imagine that. Where do these companies think future generations of workers come from?
Any company that ignores the cost of temporarily losing women to childbearing has failed to plan its finances and operations intelligently. It’s called a fact of life. So I have no sympathy for any company that arches an eyebrow when it learns a female employee is about to have a baby.
Pregnant women — and people with chronic conditions — can work. Employers can manage a work schedule when a baby comes, and can accommodate a chronic condition if the hire can otherwise do the job as required. Your challenge is to live up to the work commitment you make.
Pregnant in the job interview?
My advice is to interview and win an offer on the basis of the work you can do and the contribution you can make to the company’s bottom line. If having a baby won’t make a material difference to your ability to get the job done, then it’s none of the employer’s business. (Legal experts agree you don’t have to tell that you’re pregnant.) Get the offer first — get it in writing. It won’t be so easy for them to rescind the offer at that point, and you’ll learn a lot from their reaction, too.
Rejecting you only because they learn you’re pregnant in the job interview is unethical. The strong position is not to tell them anything, not before getting an offer or after you start work. When it’s obvious you’re pregnant, tell HR you’d like to schedule the necessary time for the baby.
If you’re going to tell, turn it into a commitment. Since you plan to return to work after the baby comes without much delay, tell that to the employer. Provide details on your planned schedule. If they express dismay that you didn’t tell them this before they made the offer but they are still eager to hire you, that may be okay. If they get upset about it, I doubt you’d want to work there — they’re not going to be very supportive of a working mother.
Having a baby is your business
If you want to take legal action at that point, it’s up to you. I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice. My job is to optimize your chances of getting an offer and of having a good relationship with your employer if you take the job. How you play it from there is up to you.
It’s not hard to argue that, if you want a good relationship with your new employer, you should ‘fess up about being pregnant before they hire you. I’d agree — if you knew in advance which employers will follow the law and not discriminate against you. But you don’t. So I come down on the side of protecting your privacy and your interests — but the call is yours.
My advice is to assess the company’s attitude and decide whether they’re worth working for. If you’re going to disclose, don’t until after you’ve got an offer. Having a baby is your business. Your ability to do the job properly is your business and the employer’s. If you prefer to disclose, don’t skew the odds against yourself imprudently. If how you handle this is a sign of your integrity, then how the employer handles it reveals theirs. My advice is to act responsibly without putting yourself at a disadvantage, and to hold any employer to a similar standard. I wish you and your family the best.
What is an employer’s business, and what is not? Does an employer need to know your medical condition? Have you encountered this situation, either as a pregnant job seeker or as a hiring manager? How did you handle it? How did the employer handle it? What medical conditions does an employer really need to know about?