Pregnancy at work can be difficult, even for seasoned professionals. The reality is, no matter how awesome you are at your job, you'll need time off work. And if you've been in your job for over a year and there are 50 or more people in the company, you're most likely eligible for 12 weeks of leave under FMLA. But, what if you're brand new to the job?

I got this email from a reader:

I start a new job next week. I'll be 25 weeks pregnant. I interviewed really early on and didn't disclose "just in case". I was contacted a month later with an offer. At this point I am bordering fat and pregnant depending on what I am wearing.

I want to disclose immediately, but haven't had the chance. Both parties I need to speak to have been busy at work, on vacation, or briefly meeting with me not in private. I really don't want to feel deceitful. I want to tell them soon so we can work on a plan for once I take leave.

I am due in early October. I want to prove myself and be treated like anyone else. However, I want us all to be prepared come the fall. My ultimate question is, am I wrong for not saying anything? Also, being that I'm newly employed could I ultimately be denied a reasonable 4-6 week leave and fired? I am very anxious about this.

First of all, congratulations are in order! For both the new job and the new baby. Both are very exciting. First, let's talk about the law. 

You aren't required to disclose a pregnancy in a job interview. You're not even required to tell your boss when you're in a job, although eventually, you'll want to bring it up. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman on the basis of pregnancy. 

That said, people absolutely do discriminate against pregnant women when they hire. It's not because they are horrible people--(although sometimes they are)--It's because every baby has to come out eventually. When you hire, you tend to want someone who will be there to do the work. 

This discrimination can be either conscious ("I'd like to hire Jane, but she's pregnant and I can't afford to have someone take time off.") or unconscious ("Jane didn't interview as well as John. Let's go with him."). A hiring manager may not even realize the bias.

It doesn't make it right, it just makes it the reality.

But, you've got the job, so yay! And you will need to tell your new boss pretty quickly. Can they deny you leave? The answer to that is probably not.

Companies are required to treat pregnancy as they would with any disability. (Not saying that pregnancy is a disability, but that's how they would have to treat it.) So, if they would give someone who broke a leg time off for recovery, they have to give you time off when you have a baby. 

This time does not have to be paid, and it can be limited to the amount of time your doctor says you need to recover. (Typically, 6 weeks for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a c-section.)

So, unless this company is extremely cruel, you'll be entitled to some time off. If they allow others to come back from leave, you'll be granted that leave.

The important thing is to be clear with your boss about your needs and your expectations. Hopefully, you did your due diligence before accepting this job and know that they have good policies and are supportive of pregnant women. Remember, that it's not just about getting a job, but getting a good one. 

Don't consider your boss a bad person if she is not thrilled with the news. Remember, she just hired you because she needed someone to do the work, and you're telling her that you'll be out for a significant amount of time. That doesn't make her a bad person--it makes her someone who has to manage without a full staff, again.

Published on: Jun 21, 2018