Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boss is Harassing Me About Getting Pregnant and Taking Too Much Maternity Leave”

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I‘ve been working at a small company (just a couple of people and I’m the only woman) for almost a year now, and I’ve really enjoyed my time there so far. I’m ambitious; I love the job now, but I can also see myself moving up within this company.

When I applied for this job, my now-boss asked me if I thought about having children (where I live it’s illegal to ask an interviewee that question. It caught me off guard and I just answered). I told him my husband and I were actively trying. He assured me that wouldn’t be a problem. Next thing I knew, I got the job. A few months later, I found out I was indeed pregnant. I immediately told my boss during my evaluation and he — and his assistant manager who also attends these evaluations — shifted right into panic mode. They quickly calculated the birth date (I was only 7 weeks) and asked me how long I’d be taking off. I told them maybe 6 months in total and they panicked some more, telling me that that would be insane. I didn’t know how to react, so I just kept silent.

One month after that an echo at the hospital showed that I had a blighted ovum. My husband and I were devastated. We cried all day and I took some days off, trying to deal with the situation. Some colleagues called me to express their sympathy. My boss did not.

In fact, he yelled at me once I returned because I didn’t have a proper back-up plan for my work in the days I was absent. We fought over it, long and hard. Afterwards, we both pretended that fight never happened. One other colleague who’s pretty close to my boss, and whom I’d always gotten along with superbly, suddenly started ignoring me. Afterwards, I heard from a close colleague that he had resented me for having wanted a baby that soon after getting a job, and that he thought it had been my plan to get a job and get a baby so that my boss wouldn’t be able to fire me. It’s like I had broken his trust or something. Apparently, my boss never told him I was clear in the beginning about having a baby.

Flash forward to today. I just took a test and I am pregnant again. Aside from the fact that this brings back so many emotions from half a year ago, with my husband and me being scared but excited while most of all careful not to be too happy, I’m now terrified of telling my boss and colleagues. I don’t want to go through the horrible finger-pointing again. I’m tired of the gossip.

I’m still ambitious and don’t want to feel guilty about wanting a baby. I don’t think it’s anyone’s business. But still. I feel like that colleague and my boss will hate me for this, and I hate the fact that I care about that.

Any advice would be welcome…

P.S. There is no “real” HR in the company. There is, however, someone who deals with the payroll, absences, and contracts. There’s also someone else who deals with everyone’s workload. — Pregnant and Worried About Work

First off, congratulations on your pregnancy! As someone who experienced an early miscarriage just last month, I can appreciate the mix of emotions you feel getting pregnant again after your own miscarriage and I wish you a smooth, healthy, uneventful pregnancy. I hope your work woes are the biggest anxieties you face over the course of your pregnancy, and I hope they are minimal. I also hope that you can be empowered to fight back should anyone at work so much as HINT that you are somehow wrong or unprofessional or undeserving of holding down a job while having a baby and taking maternity leave in the weeks or months following your labor, let alone for taking some personal days when you need them.

I’m sure, since you know I’m not a lawyer, that you’re writing to me for advice on how to deal with the interpersonal dynamics in your office and not on the legalities of your situation. But you need legal advice because I believe you’re the victim of illegal discrimination. For one thing, you say that asking an interviewee if she is planning to have children is illegal where you live. For another thing, depending on where you call home, you are most likely guaranteed maternity leave by law, either paid or unpaid (in fact, most places outside the US, which has abysmal family leave policies, are legally required to offer paid maternity leave). So, find a lawyer where you live, explain your situation, and find out what recourse you should pursue for the way you’ve been treated and threatened. In the meantime, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. And DO NOT share anything about your pregnancy to anyone you work with for the time being. And, if possible, try to keep communication in writing. If you’re addressed about something you think could be at all relevant to your situation, ask that it be confirmed/explained/re-worded over email so that you have it in writing. Save all communication.

The way your boss and colleagues have treated and are treating you is NOT OK. It’s discrimination. You never would have been asked about your family plans if you were a man. You would not be harassed like you have been if you were a man. (I mean, really, could you imagine someone asking a man in a job interview if and when he was planning to have a baby and then getting angry when he announced that a baby was on the way?!). IT IS NOT OK that your colleagues are treating you like this, and you have every right — in fact, you have a duty — to stand up for yourself and demand to be treated with respect and rights equal to your male counterparts.

As for your relationship with your colleagues, please remember that they are not your friends. They have not treated you with professional respect or courtesy. Worse, they have likely broken the law in their treatment of you. And you’re worried about them hating you? No. THEY should be worried about the legal recourse I hope you’ll take. THEY should be worried about losing you. THEY are in the wrong here, not you. NOT you. They’ve had many months to get used to the idea of you potentially having a baby and taking maternity leave. Any anger or surprise they express over your news (either in the past or future) is pure intimidation. They are trying to intimidate you so that you will meet their needs instead of your (legally-approved) own. Are their work needs more important than your personal needs? I don’t think so.

I hope that your letter serves as a cautionary tale to other women who may find themselves in a similar position. If you are EVER asked what your plans are in terms of having children, you should not answer. Educate yourself on family leave laws where you live. If you’re in the job market, ask about family leave policies at potential places of employment AFTER you’ve been offered a position (but before you accept). If you’re pregnant, or are actively trying to get pregnant, or hope to expand your family in the near future, start thinking about how much leave you want to take, how much sick leave and vacation time you might be able to combine with your leave (so that you can start saving days now), and how much money you need to save in order to offset a potential drop in income for a number of weeks or months. As your due date and maternity leave approaches, share the burden of planning for your absence at work with your boss and colleagues. DO NOT try to cram all the work you think you’ll miss into the weeks before you give birth. DO NOT make yourself overly available when you take leave.

Get your ducks in a row and set clear boundaries before you leave so that, while you’re away, you have the peace of mind to focus on the task at hand: nurturing and bonding with your new child. You’ll never ever get that time back. And there’s no reason any of it should be spent worrying about work. It will be there when you get back. And if your colleagues aren’t prepared to handle your absence, that’s on them, and it shouldn’t be your burden. If you have colleagues who pressure you or bully you or harass you about your personal life, including potential baby plans, go straight to your HR representative and/or seek legal support.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

62 comments… add one
  • avatar

    CB October 2, 2014, 8:54 am

    I’m in a similar situation. You say your company only has a couple employees, but I count at least 4 that you mention in your letter. I am 22 weeks along, and work for a company that has 3 employees–including me. I am fortunate in that my boss has not been horrendous since I told him the news, and the other employee practically cried with joy when I told her. But I know my boss is not happy as I’ve only been working there since the end of July, and the company loses 1/3 of its manpower when I’m out. I really don’t know how we’re going to handle this because we’re all overwhelmed with our own work already.

    That said, you may actually not have rights because your company is so small. Because I’m in the south and we have less than 75 employees (way less), I don’t have shit in terms of legal rights. The federal maternity laws only apply to larger companies. They aren’t required to provide me with 6 weeks maternity leave like most larger companies must abide to.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite October 2, 2014, 8:58 am

    I would think about putting out feelers at another company, in addition to the legal advice that Wendy recommends. I’m surprised that you still want to move up in this company. I know I’m a bit of a hothead when it comes to people telling me what to do, but if you dismiss part of me as a person I tend to lose respect for you/whatever it is that I’m doing. I’ve left jobs for less than what you’ve experienced including my first career job where I felt disrespected by my boss due to my age and possibly race. Wish I could share but it’s so intertwined with a client’s case that it’s best not to. I appreciate my boss now so much more looking back on my previous ones, I don’t even know why I put up with some of what i did.

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  • avatar

    Lily in NYC October 2, 2014, 9:10 am

    I have to assume LW is not in the US. I do want to clear up something I think many people believe (this is for the US) – it is not illegal to ask if someone is going to get pregnant, if they are married, etc. during an interview. However, it is illegal to base your hiring decision on the answers. In Canada, it’s illegal to even ask these questions (and I wish we had the same law here). But it doesn’t change the fact that LW’s colleagues are treating her in a discriminatory manner.

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  • avatar

    Michele October 2, 2014, 9:11 am

    If she’s in the US, she may not be eligible for maternity leave. The FMLA only covers companies with less than 50 employees. Which is why we need better policies here.

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    • avatar

      Lurking (again) October 2, 2014, 11:08 am

      OK – I think you meant that the FMLA only covers companies with MORE than 50 employees.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 11:09 am

      Yeah, I just turned down a job with a US company of less than 50 employees, and this was a driving factor. I’ve been thinking of having a second baby and I don’t want to risk not being able to take maternity leave.

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      • avatar

        K October 2, 2014, 12:47 pm

        I didn’t realize that. I work at a company with less than 50 employees. In the past couple of years, a few of the male employees have had children. No female employees have had children, and the number of female employees is far fewer. I think the owners would flip out if a female had a baby and wanted to take leave. I’ve always been curious as to what would happen.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 12:55 pm

        I assume they could just say no to the leave, right? Because there’s no legal requirement. It would be up to them if they wanted to accomodate her request or not.

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  • avatar

    Breezy AM October 2, 2014, 9:25 am

    Yah…. count me in the “why the fuck do you want to keep working with these assholes?” camp. Please definitely file complaints with your area’s labour board, and yes see a lawyer absolutely. And in some places, I know if you are no longer working at a place (by choice), the labour board/commission/tribunal won’t bother with the case any longer since it’s no longer an issue, so yes, continue for now, but this isn’t a good company. Once they’re done freaking about your maternity leave, they’ll start on freaking every time your kid is sick. And what they did to you after your miscarriage is disgusting. It’s not your job to plan for how work will get done when you’ve got an emergency medical situation; that’s your BOSS’s job. Prick.

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    • something random

      something random October 2, 2014, 10:13 am

      Yeah, it sounds like this buisness is really small and it might just be a poor fit. Companies like this tend to have a different political/personal climate than big buisness. An example of this is how comfortable your boss is being loose-tongued around you. I’m not really surprised he had a bad reaction about you taking six months instead of the more common six weeks; just that he was willing to show it while you were still in the room. Unfortunately a lot of companies will not be so transparent about their discriminating against a new mother, so it might not be the best time to quit; especially if you are using your companies health insurance. I completely agree with Wendy that you should keep quiet and document everything for now. I agree with everyone else that I would start looking for a backup plan after my paid leave was up just to have options available next year.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar October 2, 2014, 10:18 am

        Six weeks matenity is just crazy! I was barely walking properly from my C-section at 6 weeks. The nurse told me it would take 6 months to heal fully.

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      • something random

        something random October 2, 2014, 10:29 am

        I hear you. I have no idea how women do it in six weeks, either (especially if their newborn is an every two hour eater). I think it would be extraordinarily stressful and I wouldn’t want to do it.

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      • findingtheearth

        findingtheearth October 2, 2014, 10:59 am

        I worked as the only legal secretary for a private practice attorney. I went back at part time after two weeks after a c-section. I was able to take my daughter with me, which helped. But people do what they have to do.

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      • Monkeysmommy

        Monkeys mommy October 2, 2014, 2:36 pm

        I have never taken more than 6. I took 4 with my middle child. All were c section babies.

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      • avatar

        MissDre October 2, 2014, 10:20 am

        If she’s in Canada, the boss is LUCKY she was only planning to take 6 months off instead of the full year she is entitled too. He has no right to be surprised or have a bad reaction.

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      • something random

        something random October 2, 2014, 10:27 am

        Canada sounds nice.

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      • avatar

        Bcamber October 2, 2014, 10:55 am

        Pretty sure she’s in Canada where the paid entitlement for maternity/parental leave is one year. So they would be lucky if she was only going to take 6 months.

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      • FireStar

        Firestar October 2, 2014, 11:40 am

        If she was only taking 6 months they would be overjoyed not angry…and everyone here takes the full year – I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 12:17 pm

        The only people I know who didn’t take the full year are ones where their spouse took part of the time. Personally I was lucky enough to take 16 months because my manager let me take a personal leave after my mat leave.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 11:04 am

      Can you imagine if they had an employee find out they had cancer and have to be out for 6 months for chemo? Do you think the reaction would have been the same? Of course not. These people are awful.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. October 2, 2014, 1:08 pm

        Actually, at my firm, a person was fired for precisely that reason. Not sure how they got away with it.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 1:19 pm

        Holy crap! Yeah, how did they get away from it? I thought it was illegal.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. October 2, 2014, 2:40 pm

        It is, as far as I know. But so’s murder and people get away with that every day.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 3:25 pm

        Hahahahah, true enough!

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  • FireStar

    FireStar October 2, 2014, 10:12 am

    Congratulations on your pregnancy! That’s wonderful news! F-ck the interpersonal relations at the office. It’s not your job to coddle grown ass men on how to deal with eventualities all employers have to consider when they hire employees. I say this as an employer. We all know maternity leave is a possibility…you work around it. Get to a lawyer to figure out the best way to protect yourself and your growing family. The lawyer will guide you on what to say and when given the lines already crossed by your employer.

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  • avatar

    j2 October 2, 2014, 10:19 am

    I confess that I was confused over the size of the company (“just a couple of people and I’m the only woman”). Also, the legal situation may vary on company size, status of incorporation, interstate or not, etc. I am totally sympathetic with LW, but it is also possible that the three-person company simply may not remain viable in today’s economy with a 6-month absence of the only woman. The two men may be reacting to the potential loss of their own income, the forfeiture of all they have invested, etc.

    We need more information. For example, LW may be able to do enough at home by computer to make it a win-win.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray October 2, 2014, 10:21 am

    What State are you in (if in the USA)? And how many employees does your company have? Those things are key.

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    • avatar

      LW October 2, 2014, 10:44 am

      I live in Europe and I have 7 colleagues in total… Looking forward to your take on it!

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      • avatar

        MissDre October 2, 2014, 10:54 am

        Do you have a full year mat leave where you are? I know in some EU countries it’s even 2 years.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray October 2, 2014, 10:57 am

        Oh, my take on it is I have no take on it…. I would have expected better maternity leave laws in Europe.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray October 2, 2014, 10:57 am

        (I mean, i have no legal take on it – I don’t know non-US laws. I arguably don’t know US laws either, ha.)

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      • avatar

        lindsaybob October 2, 2014, 2:15 pm

        If the LW is in the UK the standard maternity leave entitlement here is 6 weeks at 90% of your salary, followed by a further 34-ish weeks “statutory maternity pay”, which is currently in the vicinity of £135 per week, then you can take a further 12 weeks for which you aren’t paid anything but your employer is legally obliged to allow you to take it. You have to have worked for your employer for 6 months to be eligible for these benefits.
        .
        I’m pretty sure that it’s illegal to ask questions about an applicants intentions regarding children, marriage etc at a job interview here.
        .
        Regarding what to do about them potentially hating you, I doubt there’s much you can do, honestly. I agree with Wendy that you shouldn’t worry about what they think, in theory. In reality though, I worked at a very small firm before having my son and it is much more difficult to keep things totally impersonal in that kind of environment. I would struggle with working in a small firm where I felt hated. Practically there isn’t much you can do, unless you feel comfortable enough with your colleagues to have a discussion with them to try to resolve any issues that arise. If I were you I would probably be looking for a new job for after my maternity leave and just stick it out until then, but I appreciate you may not want to let them push you out.

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  • becboo84

    becboo84 October 2, 2014, 10:23 am

    First of all, LW, congratulations on the pregnancy, and I’m sorry about this sucky situation that you’re in. I did want to bring up couple of legal issues though that I think could be relevant to your case (although I’m not a lawyer, but I think these are all still true): If your place of employment has fewer than 50 employees (and it sounds like that’s the case with your place), they’re not covered under FMLA; if you’ve been there less than a year (and it sounds like that was the case the first time around), you’re not covered by FMLA; and, 12 weeks is all you’re guaranteed under FLMLA (as opposed to six months). As Wendy said, the US unfortunately, lags way behind pretty much every other country in the world in terms of family leave policies.

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    • becboo84

      becboo84 October 2, 2014, 10:23 am

      Obviously, the above are in regards to someone in the US.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray October 2, 2014, 10:33 am

      Guess what? New Illinois law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015. Employers with far less employees (i can’t remember the number) now must accommodate pregnant women even if they’ve only been at work for 1 day – which includes providing time off work. That’s a huge step to better maternity laws! It means in essense: (a) employers not otherwise covered by FMLA now must give time off and (b) even if an employer is covered by the FMLA, all employees are immediately covered (no 12 month of service requirement).

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      • avatar

        Wendys Dad October 2, 2014, 11:48 am

        Yo Addie! Under the new Illinois law, if someone is on the rolls for only one day and then takes maternity leave, is that leave with pay? I’m all for maternity benefits. And since men don’t get pregnant, that means that women are the ones who will benefit the most. (And before you guys jump on me, by definition men take paternity leave, not maternity leave). But isn’t there a huge possibility for fraud? Ms. X gets hired, starts work, and the next day declares that she is pregnant and takes a lengthy leave. If it is LWOP, that’s one thing, but paid leave sounds a bit fishy. Or am I wrong in my thinking?

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      • avatar

        ktfran October 2, 2014, 12:00 pm

        Is it paid leave, or just leave? I think it’s just leave. Very few companies in the U.S offer full paid leave for maternity. Most of the companies that do, it’s at a reduced pay…. like, it’s covered under short term disability or something.

        Again, I haven’t done much research on the subject, so I could be talking out of my ass.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy October 2, 2014, 12:11 pm

        Seriously, our maternity leave policies in the US suck serious donkey balls. I know many, many women who have had babies here and taken off from work, and almost all of them — even the ones who had been at their companies a while — had to sacrifice paychecks in order to stay home for a bit, especially if they wanted to stay home more than six weeks. They save up all their vacation time and sick leave and then dip into savings once they’ve used up all their paid leave. In general, we really do not value motherhood, parenthood, or families here. It’s all WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK. Nothing else matters as much as that.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 12:30 pm

        That’s the problem with making a religion out of capitalism. But that’s a whole other discussion. 🙂
        .
        Just wanted to pipe in to say that there are different kinds of paid leave. It depends on the country. I think there are some places in Europe where the company keeps paying some portion of the employee’s pay, for some number of weeks.
        .
        In Canada, the employer doesn’t have to pay anything. Anyone on maternity/parental leave is entitled to unemployment pay, just like if you lost your job. The pay is capped, which means that if you’re a high earner, you’re going to end up with a fairly low percentage of your regular pay. Personally I got less than 40%. But unemployment deductions from your paycheque are also capped, so it’s not like I paid in a flat percentage and then got a capped percentage out. I paid in the max, and I’m getting out the max. It’s fair in that sense. We still took a financial hit, but really, if you’re making enough that you’re hitting the max, you’re making enough that you could have saved money up beforehand to cushion the blow.
        .
        What really sucks about it is that it still makes it a huge advantage to have the man be the main breadwinner and the woman make less. Because typically the woman will stay home. If she’s making most of the money, they’ll take a huge hit if she goes on leave. I do know a few men who went on leave, but they are few and far between. I would prefer a system where instead of sharing leave (which is what we do right now), each partner gets their own entitlement to a specific length of leave. That way each person has to use it or lose it. It’s an added incentive for men to take the time off and spend it with their children.

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      • avatar

        ktfran October 2, 2014, 12:34 pm

        Yeah, It’s pretty dismal. Have the babies… BUT THEN YOU NEED TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO AFTER. That’s the party line.
        .
        I think about three years ago, my company revamped the maternity leave program, but I work for a 45,000 person firm…. so I think they were able to give a little in that area. I can’t imagine what it’s like for a small firm. Actually, I would love to work for a small firm again, but the medical benefits at a large company are almost too good to pass up.

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      • Jess

        Jess October 2, 2014, 1:23 pm

        Yep. This describes my situation 100%! I have been at my company for more than 2 years (and I won’t even get into the huge amount of revenue I have generated for them in that time) and I will be following exactly this path. I am taking the full 12 weeks permitted by law and my boss had a TOTAL meltdown about it (a conversation so outrageous and illegal that I should have recorded it). I have saved and scrounged up about 7 weeks of paid time off and will take the rest unpaid. I even asked about part-time or work from home but, nope! In the meantime, the 7 weeks keeps dwindling because every OB appointment (and there are SO SO many) requires me to dip into sick time. Once I come back from my leave in March, I will have no paid time available to me until July. So I guess I will just plan not to be sick then.

        It really does make a person feel like families are not valued. We plan to have only one child and the interruption of giving birth to it is a pretty small blip on a long long road of a full-time career. It seems crazy that we have so little support or protection for parenthood. This is the outcome of the free market. The government mandates that our jobs are held for 12 weeks (FMLA) and companies are left to decide how to handle pay. The vast majority handle it by paying nothing at all.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray October 2, 2014, 12:40 pm

        In your scenario, Ms. X could declare she is pregnant before the interview, too. The company would not be allowed to discriminate against her because she’s pregnant. So when you say “fraud” I’m not sure who is being defrauded. The company because it hired a woman it didn’t know was pregnant? (Well, it can’t take into account pregnancy anyway so if it hired her not pregnant, then the knowledge it could have had that she was pregnant should have resulted in the same thing – her being hired.) “Fraud” makes it sound like she should have mentioned it so they could have taken that into consideration. Or do you mean “fraud” because, like, women can get pregnant willy nilly and rest assured knowing their company must accommodate them? And that men can’t be accommodated? Well this is solely about pregnancy so men can’t partake in this benefit. The FMLA is about child birth and caring for children so men can take time off under the FMLA. The problem that women were experience for years and years (and now – the law isn’t in effect yet) is they get pregnant and get fired b/c they don’t have the ability to take time off. (Keep in mind we are taking about some time off – unpaid time – and it’s probably not more than 12 weeks – it’s probably like 6 weeks but it is whatever is “reasonable.”) Men have enjoyed NOT losing their job due to pregnancy forever. So this law is to protect women who get pregnant. (And it takes a sperm to get her pregnant so, you know, everyone, men and women and children) benefit when mom doesn’t get fired b/c she’s pregnant. So, anyway, I don’t see it as “fraud” as much as an attempt to correct shitty shitty discriminatory practices that benefit no one – not men, not women, not families – except companies.

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      • avatar

        Wendys Dad October 2, 2014, 2:25 pm

        AP, I mean “fraud” as in claiming to be pregnant the day after being hired and drawing a salary from a company for which she hasn’t worked at all. I’m not at all against maternity leave. Don’t get me wrong. But I wonder if it’s the same for my scenario as it is for a woman who has worked for the company for a period of time and then gets pregnant. That woman has invested time and effort into the job. Ms. X, as I called her, has not. I am speaking here of leave with pay. For unpaid leave, the situation is entirely different.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 2:27 pm

        That wouldn’t work anyway because you don’t go on leave till after the baby’s born. So she’d have to fake a pregnancy for 9 months and then fake the paperwork that proves there’s a baby (birth certificate or something). Yes, that would be fraud, but I don’t think there’s a huge risk of it happening because it would be really hard to do.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray October 2, 2014, 3:15 pm

        Oh like faking it? Pretending to be pregnant and then pretending the baby was born and taking time off? That would be funny – and bad! but funny. She could be fired. But in any event this is unpaid leave.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray October 2, 2014, 3:51 pm

        Also as for your scenario – new hire v. been there for a period of time – no difference as far as that Illinois amendment I mentioned go. And not for the FMLA. But an employer could always make a policy like that – if you’re employed for 0-12 months, you get 6 weeks of unpaid time off, if you’re 1-3 years, you get X weeks paid, and so on and so forth. Employers have a lot of freedom.

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  • avatar

    RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 11:02 am

    It sounds like you’re in Canada. If so, I would advise you to take the full year you’re entitled to (unless you can’t afford to, or unless your husband is taking 6 months). This is not a company you’re going to be working with long-term, unfortunately. I don’t see how you can continue with the way that they’re acting. I don’t think the bad blood will clear up even after you come back. And what if you want a second child?
    .
    Follow Wendy’s advice to get legal counsel, and tell your boss you’re pregnant through email so you have a record of when you did it. You don’t want them to be able to fire you before you go on leave. Then take your leave and don’t feel bad about it. The government gives it because the people of the country think it’s important – your boss can’t be allowed to guilt you out of your rights. Then when you come back, start looking for other work. Don’t worry about how they’ll cover the work while you’re gone. They won’t be paying your salary so they’ll be able to afford a contractor.
    .
    Anyone starting a business in Canada is aware that this program exists, and that they need to allow for it. It would be helpful if more men would go on leave so that women didn’t get discriminated against for having children, but I hope that’s changing.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 11:07 am

      Just saw above that you’re in Europe, but I’m assuming the laws are similar although the max leave may be different. I’d still take the max and then look for work after. Don’t shortchange yourself and your family for these jerks.

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    Lurking (again) October 2, 2014, 11:20 am

    So- I was in a similar situation. Hired while pregnant. They should have known – I was showing during the interview for heavens sake! and the references all knew! But they panicked when they found out after giving me the offer. I actually felt guilty for taking the job when I found out later that they really didn’t know. Then I saw that they treated male workers who needed extended medical leave quite differently. Really. So just think to yourself. If a male co-worker needed a heart by-pass, or back surgery, or something similar and they were going to be out for months, would they be treated the same? Not that the answer to that question gives you the legal answer, but it lets you know whether the mindset of your boss and your colleagues is one of gender discrimination or not. Regardless, it doesn’t look like this is the right place for you long-term. In my case, I ended up staying with that company for many years. It turns out their main fear was that I wouldn’t return from maternity leave. The legality of your situation depends on where you are, so I agree with Wendy and other – consult a lawyer and find out where you stand.

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  • Monkeysmommy

    Monkeys mommy October 2, 2014, 12:16 pm

    I went through this with my first pregnancy. I was unexpectedly expecting three days after taking a job. It was in no way planned and questionable as to whether I would keep the baby. I did, but the moment I told my boss, he began to treat me very badly. Much like you, I was treated as though I got the job knowing I was pregnant were planning to get pregnant and just wanting a way to keep my job without being at risk. I actually quit my office job, and went and got a job waiting tables for the remainder of my pregnancy. And guess what it was surprisingly a lot less stressful. I did not have any concrete proof of the way my boss treated me that I could really seek legal advice on, so I didn’t. However at the time I left, I faxed my letter resignation to the president of the company with a lengthy detailed explanation of why I was leaving. They never reached out to me. Over a decade later, that boss came into the dental does that I was the administrator of. He was still working for the same sad ass company. Likely one of the hygienist gave him an extra little prod for me while he was getting his teeth cleaned!

    I cannot say that my subsequent pregnancies went over really well at work either, though I was somewhere else both times. I was always respectful of their time as well as mine, and kept it to the six week minimum per doctor’s order.

    As a supervisor, I can understand your boss being upset about the length of time you initially’s plan to take off. Six months is somewhat excessive when you were expecting someone to hold your position and cover your workload. Whatever, that does not give him the right to treat you poorly or spread rumors or cause you grief in the workplace. If you can get evidence of the way you’re being treated, I would encourage you to seek an attorney. I wish I had the first time. And definitely my sympathies on the first pregnancy.

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    • avatar

      lindsaybob October 2, 2014, 2:46 pm

      I appreciate that your comment is written from the point of view of somebody accustomed to the maternity leave laws and situation in the US rather than Europe, but I don’t think it’s really fair for you to say that the six months maternity leave the LW plans to take is excessive. I’m sure it would be considered excessive in the US, but in many parts of Europe, including the UK where I live, a year is the standard maternity leave and most people take at least nine months of that (many take a full year, but the last three months are entirely unpaid and so some choose not to take that time as they cannot afford it).
      .
      Any company here should expect and be prepared for the fact that the law requires them to hold the position of a pregnant woman who wishes to take her entire maternity leave entitlement of one year and so the LW should not be made to feel bad about exercising her legal rights. And if a supervisor DID feel that the length of maternity leave was unreasonable, their displeasure should be with the government that put those laws in place, not with the LW who simply wants to spend as much time as she is entitled to with her new baby.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 3:29 pm

        Agree. In places where the legal leave is higher, no one thinks it’s excessive to take the max. Everyone routinely takes the max where I live. And it sounds like wherever the LW is from, 6 months isn’t even the max, just by the way she phrased “maybe 6 months in total”. I could be wrong, but that was my impression. So it definitely wouldn’t seem excessive to her employers, who should be used to it by now. Unless it’s a new law, maybe, but I think LW would have mentioned that.

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  • possumgirl

    possumgirl October 2, 2014, 12:42 pm

    Unfortunately, as a very small company, your rights and coverages under the EEOC guidelines are limited. Pregnancy discrimination laws only apply to employers with 15 or more employers. However, this does not negate the possibility of pursuing legal action.
    -Wendy is right, do NOT disclose your pregnancy until you have to.
    -Six months is a long time (and were you expecting to be paid during this time?). Even in California, (which has rich pregnancy disability and baby bonding leave laws), most people are only able to use 4-5 months max for pregnancy disability and baby bonding (separate protected leaves) combined. Something more reasonable would be to discuss 3-4 months off, with a part time return to work.

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  • avatar

    Shanon October 2, 2014, 12:42 pm

    I don’t think they care WHY you’re taking leave. Sure they know a baby would be the most likely reason you’d be taking leave at any given moment, but I don’t think they actually care that you’re a woman or that you’re pregnant. It’s just in bad bad taste in general for anyone who gets a new job to then decide to take 6 mos off. That’s what they’re panicking about.

    .

    Excluding life & death situations (which even then not always, I’ve known of people who have gotten fired over having cancer), I think anyone newly hired who then takes leave would probably be fired. Especially if it were a man. Luckily they cannot fire you over getting pregnant. Still, I don’t think you & this company are a a good fit. You’re not being fair to the company by taking a very long leave so soon after being hired (the reason why is irrelevant, it’s not personal) & they’re not being fair to you because again, to them the reason why is irrelevant & not personal.

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    • avatar

      Shanon October 2, 2014, 12:45 pm

      *minus one “bad”

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover October 2, 2014, 1:23 pm

      I guess it depends which you think is more important – corporations or individuals. Personally I think corporations are constructs created by us, specifically to serve our needs. Their concerns shouldn’t be placed at a higher priority than societal concerns.

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    • avatar

      Muffy October 2, 2014, 2:07 pm

      I agree to an extent with Shanon. Particularly because it’s a small company. The issue is that they have to keep your job open for you when you come back but in the mean time they are going to have to find someone else to replace you for a mat leave or put the work on others in the company. I don’t think corporations are all evil but since you are likely entitled to something anyways just stay on at your job so that you can collect maternity benefits (not sure how it is in EU but in Canada it is not paid by the company (besides what they have to pay into EI anyways) but rather through Employment Insurance which is paid out by the government – the max. you’d ever get is like 48% of your salary or something like that). You don’t have to go back to your workplace afterwards, you can look for somewhere else.

      I think your boss was stupid for voicing those concerns out loud because if they ever did anything you could have a discrimination suit. But I don’t think what he said is an uncommon thought. I am not blaming you in any way. I am just trying to say that I can understand from a small company’s perspective how this could be a setback. It’s frustrating for both sides.

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  • Jess

    Jess October 2, 2014, 1:29 pm

    I can possibly top this. I have been at my company 2 years and during that time my boss (a woman!) has continually pressed me about my plans to have kids. I dodged and dodged until she wore me down. I finally told her and she gave me a long speech about supporting me but when I did announce my pregnancy a few months later, she flipped out. She doesn’t mind the pregnancy itself too much (because I keep coming to work and putting in stupid hours) but she absolutely lost her shit when I said I was taking 12 weeks. Pretended not to know what FMLA was. Then told me that people “at my level” never take that much time (“it’s just not done”). Then tried to tell me that I would regret taking that much time because of how much work would suffer and my transition back would be unbearable. I can’t even remember what other tricks she pulled but she tried everything to talk me down from 12. I didn’t report her to HR because its not worth it to me but I sure as hell made sure I had all my paperwork in place. And bonus, I found out that I will be getting 13.5 weeks because they cannot calculate FMLA during the time we are closed over Christmas. I get that free on top.

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    • FireStar

      Firestar October 2, 2014, 1:59 pm

      What is wrong with people? The firm I worked at before starting my own used to almost have a competition to see who would come back quickest. I took 6 weeks – well I took 4! and this is where we get a year legally. That’s why I left – I knew I couldn’t have the work life balance I wanted in that place. Even with being the owner and not technically getting maternity leave at all – I still didn’t step foot in my office until 6 months after baby and then just worked part time since then – working from home 2-3 days a week. I took a hit in my bottom line but still met all my expenses. The reality is I can’t get that time back with her – but I can always find a way to make money later.
      So what if work suffers while you are gone and the transition takes longer? That is more important than spending time with your infant? Unbelievable. When is the baby due Jess? Do you know boy or girl?

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      • Jess

        Jess October 3, 2014, 11:40 am

        Yeah, it makes me sad. Like I get that I have only been working in THIS job for 2.5 years but in the bigger picture of my career, it seems insane that I don’t get to take this time for a life milestone. If I added up all the unpaid overtime that I have put into my career, I’d have many months of leave but I gave that willingly. There is no return on investment. … –you know?

        Anyway, thanks. Baby is due on Dec 8th and is a little girl. 🙂 I am really excited to meet her in 9 more weeks!

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    Teri Anne October 2, 2014, 9:00 pm

    When my mother (born in 1931) graduated from college and looked for a job, few people would hire her because she was an engaged Catholic women who was presumed to be pregnant soon. She had to pretend she had cramps every month to reassure her boss that she was not pregnant. After my aunt was married, she was fired from her job because she had a miscarriage. A generation later in 1982, when I started a new job the employee handbook said that pregnant women would be fired when they were 7 months along. When I expressed concern during orientation, I was told that the policy had been recently changed but the handbook was not yet updated.

    To my utter dismay, even now women such the LW are still experiencing blatant discrimination. Because she works for a very small company, I am not sure if her employer’s actions are illegal or if she has grounds for a lawsuit. Going through such an experience is very demoralizing, especially after a miscarriage. I would advise the LW to wait as long as possible to inform her employer of her pregnancy, and to not worry about how they will cope while she takes maternity leave. She should follow Wendy’s advice to consult a lawyer, and to document everything.

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  • avatar

    MMcG October 3, 2014, 12:13 am

    A minor ray of hope… Go DC (not the feds) for taking some more baby steps in the right direction… FMLA (which covers more than pregnancy fyi – you can use it for a sick parent and other qualifying family events beyond pregnancy) already went beyond the Federal 12 weeks and is 16 in the District. And the DC Government is about to offer 8 weeks PAID leave starting tomorrow, something which less than 10% public or private entities do in the US.

    http://m.wamu.org/#/news/14/09/30/dc_government_workers_get_eight_weeks_paid_family_leave

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