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Pregnant job seeker

Posted by Elaine Varelas  May 27, 2009 05:00 AM

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Q. I have a question about trying to find a new job now that I am pregnant. What is the best way to deal with my pregnancy during the job search, and when is the best time to bring my situation up with potential employers? I don't want to scare off someone who may want to hire me, knowing that I will only be available for a few months, and then out on maternity leave, then back after my leave. I know that being pregnant doesn't make me a "protected" class from a legal standpoint. I also don't want to take a job and hide the pregnancy until after starting the new job, if that will be seen as withholding key information. Any advice?

A. Job seeking while pregnant is about timing. Statistically, women do most often return to work after having a child - especially when there is a flexible return.

The timing issues start when the news becomes public. I'll assume you have waited the customary 12 weeks to tell people you are close to. There is no reason to discuss anything with an employer prior to passing this milestone. Also, consider delaying news to your networking circle or potential references. Your goal is to minimize any limits people might put on your candidacy based on what they think might be "appropriate" for a pregnant woman. For example, unfortunately there are people who might not let you know about a position that requires travel, assuming you wouldn't want to travel with a newborn. While that might be the case, it might not be, and you want to be in the position to determine whether or not the opportunity is right for you.

Mother Nature lets you keep the news private for some period of time, and during those months, I would network and interview without disclosing your situation. Some employers might not agree with this advice. I can tell you that the disclosure of this news - legal or not - does have an impact on how people view you as a candidate. As a good job seeker, you need to spend time with a potential employer so they can see what you have to offer and how you would fit into their culture before they are faced with any obstacles - which a maternity leave does represent to some employers.

As you move into second and third interviews, and later second and third trimesters, you are right to feel the need to begin disclosing your situation, and a very strong statement about your plans to return to work. If this is not your first child, hiring managers need to know that you returned to work after your previous leaves. Potential employers need to hear about the plans you have for child care and back up care. They need to hear that you have sisters or very close friends who have also gone back to work after having children and that you learned a great deal about how you will handle the situation from them.

Some employers will assume you have no idea how you will feel leaving your newborn, and they will be very hesitant about investing training dollars in what they view as a high risk hire. Depending on how far along you are, you may be able to negotiate a project or temporary arrangement with them prior to having your child, with a formal start date following your leave.

I have seen some great hires of talented woman while they were pregnant. The managers and organizations who took this "risk" were able to get exceptional employees with unbelievable organizational loyalty.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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36 comments so far...
  1. Is this 1970?..I thought I was reading McCall’s magazine, I was just about to get the latest crochet pattern for that new poncho I've been precious!
    What good advice to talk about your sisters and girlfriends during an interview, how professional. If you’re qualified and you want the job, focus on that during the interview ask questions about travel requirements. First things first, plan consider the maternity leave after you get the job...

    Posted by anna May 28, 09 10:39 AM
  1. I would also prepare yourself for outright discrimination as well. I experienced that while interviewing for a certain "circle" travel company. It was both shocking and deeply disheartening experience, but I think discrimination, in one form or another, is still prevalent in our society.

    Posted by OnceNaive May 28, 09 10:45 AM
  1. I was 9 months pregnant when I went for a job interview at a high tech company. There were several other candidates but the company hired me. If they like you, they like you. I wouldnt stress too much if you cant hide it.

    Posted by Anon May 28, 09 11:07 AM
  1. I think it is very POOR advice to tell this woman to hide the fact that she is pregnant while job-seeking. As an employer, I would be FURIOUS if I hired a woman and then a couple of months into the job found out that she was pregnant when she interviewed with me and witheld that VERY IMPORTANT information from me.

    Posted by Shecky May 28, 09 02:48 PM
  1. I was in the same situation and was 5 months pregnant at my second interview. I did not disclose that I was pregnant because i needed this job and couldn't take a risk of them not hiring me. I had to think of myself and my family. I knew I was going to come back to work but the company had no way of knowing for sure so I felt it best not to tell them until after I had received and accepted an offer. Once I accepted the offer I called the hiring manager and told her I was pregnant. I told them that the timing was no ideal but I want this job and am coming back after my leave. What could they do then but hope that I came back. I've now been here for almost 10 months and everything worked out fine. It was stressful having to tell them I was pregnant and I felt bad hiding it but when it came right down to it, I had to do what was best for me and my family.

    Posted by Julie May 28, 09 03:15 PM
  1. Declining to hire a person because she is pregnant *is* illegal discrimination.

    Posted by Michaela May 28, 09 03:22 PM
  1. .... and some single man who already has enough of his own work to do will get to stay late every night for six weeks doing your job too, without getting paid any more money for it. Gosh, I love this country!

    Posted by Been There May 28, 09 03:31 PM
  1. I was pregnant with my first child (many years ago) & was being let go from my then present employer due to work shortage. Last one hired etc. I was only about 8 weeks along & when I posed that question to my employer about interviewing for another job, he said not to tell perspective employers i was expecting. His answer when I asked him what he'd do if he found out a woman he hired was pregnant & didn't tell him when she was hired? He'd let her go for not being fully honest.

    Posted by Anonymous May 28, 09 03:34 PM
  1. " want to be in the position to determine whether or not the opportunity is right for you." And of course the employer should have no option to determine if you are right for the position.

    "They need to hear that you have sisters or very close friends who have also gone back to work after having children and that you learned a great deal about how you will handle the situation from them." This is in case the employer is ignorant and never had a sister or wife (or themselves) had to deal with the situation.

    I agree with #3 Anon - just hire the best person for the job.

    Posted by NHViewpoint May 28, 09 03:38 PM
  1. It's a shame the advice answer did not correct the letter-writer's legal error -- pregnancy is a protected class, under Title VII. A company cannot refuse to hire someone because she is pregnant. That said, of course there are realities to the job market, and companies very well may discriminate because of pregnancy; and it's doubtful a job-seeker could do anything about it (in this job market, there a million believeable reasons a company could give about why they did not hire).

    But that legal prohibition against discrimination at least ought to give her a bit of comfort -- smart employers will treat her fairly. It is not nearly the liability to her job search that she thinks it is. One thing to do, I believe, is to disclose on receipt of the job offer that you are pregnant, and let them know you will take maternity leave. The company at that point knows the score, can plan ahead of time -- and obviously can't rescind your offer without being obviously discriminatory.
    I'm rather horrified at the advice's explanation that she needs to give employers explanations about her plans for childcare, and prove that she intends to return to work; employers simply cannot ask those questions without running afoul of the law. Again, by all means, on receipt of a job offer, let the employer know. But beforehand, the company has no right to dig into these things. Congress decided long ago that pregnant women should be able to get jobs. It is not wrong to follow the public policy of the country and to decide not to make it easy for a company to violate the law -- don't disclose something they have no legal right to ask you about. Let them know upon receipt of an offer, and work something out about your leave then.

    Posted by j-len May 28, 09 03:44 PM
  1. I interviewed for my current job while I was 7months pregnant. I did not disclose the fact I was pregnant until I was offered the job. When I told them I was 7 months pregnant they were a little surprised. I wasn't trying to hide the fact I was pregnant, it never came up in conversation and I did not feel like I needed to tell them at this point in the interview process. I was open and honest once offered the job. We discussed my maternity leave before signing any contract. This was important since I would not have much vacation time accrued I wanted to be sure I received the amount of time off I felt I needed before returning back to work.

    Posted by 7 months May 28, 09 03:58 PM
  1. RE : "I would also prepare yourself for outright discrimination as well."

    I wouldn't call it discrimination, just business.

    A company hires you and then a few weeks (or months) later, you go on maternity leave. And they're right back to where they where - one employee short. But now they have to pay additional payroll/benefits for an employee who is temporarily out of work.

    But if you are an excellent candidate, I imagine this wouldn't be an issue - they'll hire you anyway.

    Posted by Paul May 28, 09 05:23 PM
  1. I too, am pregnant. I was laid off in my 4th month and started looking immediately. I had a lot of job activity. I did disclose over the phone that I was expecting, and most employers lost interest. One recruiter asked me to come in for an interview, prior to my disclosing my pregnancy. Once I disclosed, he said "I'll get back to you... "he never did. It's certainly a difficult situation.

    Posted by Same-shoes May 28, 09 07:56 PM
  1. This is a no win situation, if you tell I think you will make it less likely you will be hired, but you have to tell, it will seem deceitful if you don't and that is a hard way to start a job. I was hired when I was pregnant once, and it was fine, but while there is discimination it is a tough thing for an employer, to hire someone who will have a lot of appointments, will be new and then will be out for several months, tough for both sides.

    Posted by aw May 28, 09 08:26 PM
  1. It's illegal for potential employers to ask what your child care arrangements are so I wouldn't volunteer it. Sets a bad precedent.

    Posted by rachel May 28, 09 09:34 PM
  1. Is the same advice given to male counterparts expecting a new child - to discuss their personal childcare arrangements and lessons learned from friends and family in a similar situatiion? While discrimination exists, this advice seems to perpetuate the problem.

    Posted by Jennifer May 29, 09 03:53 AM
  1. Guys, not to sound like a jerk or anything but, when work is crazy and you're putting in 70hrs a week,desperate for your company to hire someone to take some of the load off, then the person that they hire surprises everyone with the fact that in 5 months (just when they should be somewhat up to speed to start really helping) they are going to be gone for 3 months or so...well...I don't know. It seems a recipe for resentment among your co-workers.

    I'm all for maternity leave. I honestly think that it should be longer. However, hiding a pregnancy while job searching is going to lead to some interpersonal issues.

    Posted by belt May 29, 09 07:07 AM
  1. Good luck finding a job while you are pregnant. I for one wouldn't hire you.

    Posted by bossman May 29, 09 08:54 AM
  1. I am very disappointed in this article. The job seeker says, " I know that being pregnant doesn't make me a "protected" class from a legal standpoint." It does. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII for employers with more than 15 employees. According to the EEOC, "an employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, because of a pregnancy-related condition, or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers." Although these actions certainly still occur, the job seeker should have been notified of her rights in your response. Please check your facts more carefully.

    Posted by Kim May 29, 09 09:09 AM
  1. discrimination is absolutely still rampant in our society! I was forced out of job b/c of repeated miscarriages and needing time off for hospital stay sand medical rest.
    Be honest & upfront. In my case of being honest about the miscarriages I was forced out but I got a great severance package b/c they knew I had a great case to sue and it led me to my current - family friendly job. I was 6 weeks pregnant when I was offered my current job. I told them immediately & no change to the offer. They honored my request to work part time thru the birth b/c of my medical history. Am now full time and things are great. If they want you they want you. If they give you a hard time about having a family - do you really want to work there?!

    Posted by sari May 29, 09 11:11 AM
  1. Every employee needs to go on leave at some point. Yours might be maternity, but then there's cancer treatments, hysterectomies, surgeries...all sorts of reasons people need to be away from their work. No one would question the credibility of the big boss getting an angioplasty, so don't question your credibility for being pregnant.

    Posted by Amanda May 29, 09 11:22 AM
  1. Hey employers who say they wouldn't hire a pregnant woman -- legal issues aside, what if this had happened to your mother and there was nobody else to provide for you once you were born?

    Posted by Kim May 30, 09 06:14 PM
  1. I was laid off at 6 months pregnant (company wide layoff, I was not discriminated against by them). Interviewing was torture. Eyes always went directly to my obvious belly and I would be asked tons of questions about my ability to travel for the job and for training. I would not be asked about the pregnancy, but they would find other reasons to not move me forward. The first interview I took after the birth of my son I had none of these questions and I was hired immediately. There is definite prejudice during the interview process, even with a stellar work history.

    Posted by Ruth May 30, 09 09:23 PM
  1. And people wonder why employers are squeamish about hiring women....

    Posted by Spike May 30, 09 10:16 PM
  1. Paul - the company doesn't pay extra payroll, etc. while an individual is on maternity leave. An individual goes out on short term disability and they get paid via that.. just like any other person who leaves work for any other medical leave.

    Posted by suz May 31, 09 12:10 AM
  1. I'm disappointed by many of the comments here. The number of responses stating they'd refuse to hire a woman they know to be pregnant just proves the need for specific legal protection for pregnant women. There are no guarantees in hiring - you also have no way of knowing that young single male won't injure himself and go out on temporary leave after 5 months of work, do you? I ended up disclosing my pregnancy in my first interview with my eventual employer (my choice), and her supportive response was a key reason I decided to accept their offer.

    Posted by 498NP May 31, 09 06:23 PM
  1. I love all the people here who bring up the title crap.

    Let's look at it this way. You get a job and in 4 months they sell the company and you are laid off. No severance - just an email that says bah bye. Now imagine finding out that the hiring manager KNEW you were going to get laid off but didn't want to tell you because they needed someone to do the job you were hired for just for 4 months. But hiring you was cheaper than going for a temp. Now imagine that you moved your family for this job and you left a position that you were very secure in.

    Have a little respect for your future employer and be honest for crying out loud.

    Posted by chris May 31, 09 09:34 PM
  1. Amanda, you are wise! Life happens, a birth should be a joy/blessing and who knows for the employer, could be a future employee! If they treat the mom right and there's room for growth... in other words if the company is worth it..... every walk of life is a two-way street!

    re: the whiny single guy.... get over your boring self! Sorry... geez, I was a single young woman who had to many times pick up the slack for several ohters in the office and I did it happily and we all built a great, respected team!

    Posted by mom June 1, 09 07:54 AM
  1. I would be furious if I hired someone who new they where pregnant and did not tell me during a job interview. My company is a therapeutic clinic and is not your run of the mill sit a desk job. Not only do I need to plan for the person who will be unable to lift an individual in later stages of pregnancy, but I need to plan (many months in advance) for those individuals on the person's caseload to be covered. If they are a good therapist then I want that person and have no issue bring some onto the team. For my business to survive and my customer to be happy I need to plan. If a woman kept this type of important information from me, I fail to see how I could trust them at all. This is horrible advice written with a poor paintbrush.

    Posted by Lisa June 1, 09 08:03 AM
  1. I have a question that's probably been addressed in this column at some point, but I hope a thoughtful reader can give me a quick viewpoint. Several months ago I interviewed for a temporary position that would require a month's stay in Europe. I was qualified for the position, but I know many other applicants were as well, and I honestly don't know what factors went into the hiring of another candidate.

    However, I've been troubled by an incident during my interview. The interviewer actually pointed out my wedding ring and said, "I see that you're married. How does your husband feel about you being away for a month?" I quickly explained that I had once spent two months away for professional reasons, and that my husband is a very modern man and completely supportive of my ambitions. The interviewer moved on, but he was an older man and I can't help but wonder if he disapproved of the idea of a woman leaving her home for that long. I seriously doubt that men with wedding rings are presented such skeptical questions when it comes to work-related travel. At any rate, I feel the question was wholly inappropriate. Would I be applying for the job if I (or my husband!) wasn't able to handle the travel arrangements?

    I've since heard women say that they don't wear wedding rings to interviews, out of fear that they'll be viewed differently. That may sound like an archaic fear, but my interviewer had an obvious reaction to my marital status, so now I'm considering this tactic. Are there women on this board who don't wear their wedding rings to interviews? Are there men who feel the same way, who prefer not to disclose marital status before being hired?

    Posted by Jmet June 1, 09 08:18 AM
  1. So disappointing to see all the unsupportive comments from men who are is precisely because of your attitudes that women are forced to hide their pregnancies until they have the job offer. You might as well decide you won't hire a woman because at some point she MIGHT become pregnant. Please, I would gladly give up being swollen, sick as a dog for nine months, enduring childbirth, and acting as a chew-suck toy for a screaming infant (sorry, Moms, it's all true and I still love my kids!) in exchange for working longer hours at the office. If you'd like the human race to continue, you'll have to get with the times, men!

    Posted by Just1Voice June 1, 09 10:05 AM
  1. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects women from employment discrimination at the time of hire due to pregnancy. You ARE actually protected legally. If I were you, I would not disclose your situation until an offer is on the table in writing. Then disclose the pregnancy as you accept the offer. Then if your employer backs out, he/she can be sued.

    FYI, The Family and Medical Leave Act also guarantees men and women up to 12 weeks of job-guaranteed unpaid leave at employers with more than 50 employees. You can use FMLA for maternity leave or sick leave.

    Posted by Allison June 1, 09 10:47 AM
  1. I am 9 weeks pregnant and have just been offered a temporary, full-time position in a hospital. It is a very light work desk job. The job offer is for 6 months only because the person who was offered the perminent position can't start work for 6 months. My baby is due in 7 months so that works out perfectly for me. Since it is such a lightwork position and only for 6 months anyways should I have any worries about telling my boss that I am pregnant?

    Posted by Dtban June 11, 09 02:07 PM
  1. Im in the very same situation. Im 7 months pregnant and the company i currently work for will be laying off soon. I got the call yesterday and set up the interview, but felt guilty for not disclosing this information, and left a voicemail message with the recruiter this morning. I haven't heard a response as of yet, but my plan is to go ahead with the interview and express that i am the perfect candidate for the job. Very good advise from posters, but telling them off hand is the way to go, and if you have to hide this info, you may not want to work for that type of company anyway.

    Posted by Krissyflu June 19, 09 04:03 PM
  1. I have to agree it's dissapointing to see some of the male responces. I was laid off at 3 months pregnant and have been looking since. I know for a fact at least 2 companies past because of my pregnancy (their loss). I am 26 weeks and have an interview this Friday. I will continue to tell them my situation and offer to work from home for the 6 weeks. My heart says if it's meant to be they will be willing to work with me, if it is not, it's not. I need to work and will continue the need to work after the baby's arrival. I wouldn't waste anyones time if I didn't plan on returning to full time work. For me I feel I have to be honest and open about it, I couldn't start that type of relationship any other way. It may not help in the end, but I'll be able to sleep at night. I wish all those searching the best of luck!

    Posted by Azreal June 25, 09 01:03 AM
  1. #28 Mom. I agree with 'Single Whiney Guy' I have seen teams made up of women fall apart when they all seem to fall pregnant around the same time. We even brought in new staff to cover the losses and the new girl who was told she was offered the role because of the situation AND offered more money for an advanced position announced she was pregnant on her first day. To say I was furious is an understatement, because who do you think has to deal with the workload, 'the single whiney guy' except I'm not even single, already doing 70-80 hour weeks, I ended up working 7 days, many times through the night, my personal life suffered, I became ill. Our quality of work suffered, the companies reputation fell. I now run my own company and do the hiring and when employing women would much prefer the more 'experienced' for pillar positions. It is unfortunate, but the truth is employing women in their 20's - 30's who haven't already got a family can be a very bad business decision in high pressure situations. The law is written as if anyone qualified is capable of doing a job, as if you can replace someone with no loss of quality, but experience in the role is often vital, personal relationship with the clients a requirement. A temp doesn't have these things.

    Posted by Another whiney guy September 4, 09 10:42 AM

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