So you think you’re ready to tell the world that you’re pregnant? You imagine that everyone will be happy and excited for you, but what about your boss?
Many pregnant moms fear how their boss and employer will react to their baby bump. After all, people may assume that you won’t work as hard, want to travel as much, or be available to take on big projects. Also, for moms working in hourly jobs, shift supervisors may cut hours and not offer overtime–two things which can really hurt mom’s career and diminish her income. Sometimes these changes can be malicious, but some are just missteps by well meaning colleagues who don’t know what to think about what pregnancy will mean for you.
Keep an eye out for these three things after you tell your employer you’re pregnant, because these can be downright discriminatory.
Watch the Clock
If you’ve just told everyone you’re expecting a baby, you’ve got to watch the clock. Everyone else is. They’re doing mental math–when will you deliver, when will you go on maternity leave, when will you come back after maternity leave, and more. It is helpful to think through your timeline before announcing your pregnancy so that you can get ahead of any ill-calculated assumptions about your availability.
If you still want to work nights, long hours, and overtime, say so. Many pregnant women are passed over for those opportunities, which might bring in more money and professional development opportunities. If you’d like to be offered the choice, speak up and let your work team know. And, of course, if you’re not interested–also say so well in advance of a pinch.
If you start to see that others are getting opportunities to work schedules that you’re being denied, take note of the incidents and how they came to pass. If you’re the only one getting skipped, chances are some pregnancy discrimination is at play.
Watch the Calendar
Similarly, there will be a lot of days that you’ll have to account for your actions and whereabouts. Keep in mind when you’ll be taking off for doctor’s appointments and let your whole team know when you’ll be on bedrest. This will reduce the amount of times your team calls on you for work when you’re attending to your own health. Keep lines of communication open, so that they know which days on your calendar are black out days.
Also, learn more about your employer’s maternity leave and lactation time. There’s no federally mandated maternity leave in the United States, so each company can set its own policies. Some are paid, others are unpaid.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), lets someone take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the care of themselves or a family member. This could extend to birth or postpartum bonding. If you want to split this leave into multiple chunks, rather than taking it all at once, you’ll have to talk with your human resources office to learn if that is permitted in your office.
Last, many workplaces offer lactation time for breastfeeding. Most also offer lactation rooms where moms can pump in a clean and safe environment– no, bathrooms do not count! Read your employee handbook or talk with your office’s human resources staff.
Missed or Mudied Promotions
Watch out for missed or delayed promotions and career milestones. In many cases, maternity leave may be used against a woman in the workplace because she may not be able to deliver on key performance indicators in a short period of time. Again, she may not be offered the high-value work meant to be visible to the senior leadership, so her peers advance faster over time.
This is part of the pregnancy penalty. Thankfully, however, you can watch out for these things by confronting them when they happen. Ask for an explanation in writing about why you weren’t advanced and what it would have taken to do so. If the answer harkens back to a time when you were pregnant or recovering, chances are that you may have an EEO case on your hands