I recently had my second child, and so lately I’ve been a bit more active on birth boards, or online discussion forums related to pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing. One question that pops up all the time on these boards is: “should I tell my boss I am pregnant, and if so, when?”
Pregnancy Discrimination is Alive and Well
I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one. Although we’re lucky to have the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which states that employers can’t refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant, can’t fire her for being pregnant, and can’t treat her differently because of her pregnancy, the truth is that employers disregard the law every day by attempting to get rid of pregnant employees.
Why would they do such a thing? The cost of medical benefits and family leave is one reason, and concern for company welfare is another. From the employer’s perspective, a woman might not return from maternity leave, and even if she does, she might be less effective at her job once she has a child to worry about.
Your Plan of Attack
What’s the solution? First, don’t tell your boss you’re pregnant until it’s physically impossible to hide it. You want to maintain control over the situation for as long as possible, and also, god forbid you should lose the pregnancy in the first trimester, you will want to spare yourself the embarrassment and hurt of having to inform your manager and colleagues.
Once you break the news, stay alert to signs of discrimination. If they appear, nip the situation in the bud right away. Tell your manager that you feel that you’re being treated unfairly because you’re pregnant, and put it in writing via e-mail. Having these claims out in the open may make your boss nervous about future legal action and cause him to backpedal, which could very well save your job.