Are you expecting your first, second, third child? Announcing your pregnancy in the workplace (yes, even in this “evolved” world of 2017), you may find your news doesn’t garner as much enthusiasm and well wishes as you might think. Berke-Weiss Law PLLC, founders of the Pregnancy Project shares these tips when considering disclosing your pregnancy to your employer.
Announcing your pregnancy to family and friends is usually met with excitement and enthusiasm, but announcing your pregnancy at work may not be a joyous experience. Instead of smiles, you may watch faces fall as colleagues and supervisors alike express dismay about the work they have to take on, or actively question you about how you’re going to keep working after having your child. This list is intended to help you frame your initial conversation with your boss and to set the stage for future conversations while communicating your message: I’m pregnant and I’m committed to this job. Please note, the information provided here is for informational purposes, and is not legal advice.
Be intentional about when you tell your boss. Ideally, add an agenda item to an already scheduled meeting. Try to have the conversation face-to-face. Sharing the news by email or text is not ideal, since it may be harder to convey your commitment in that medium. Be direct and professional. You want to convey that you are expecting, when your due date is, and that you are excited about the pregnancy and committed to returning to work.
Think about the timing of the initial conversation. There is no requirement or best time for divulging your pregnancy at work. The timing of your conversation may be motivated by different factors, including: whether you are showing; if your pregnancy changes the timeline for a project you are working on; wanting to avoid being seen as a mother first, or; if symptoms of your pregnancy are impacting your performance.
People can be fired while they are pregnant, but not for being pregnant. If you are having trouble performing at work for pregnancy-related reasons, disclosing your pregnancy could protect you from being fired or disciplined. Employers in New York City are required to provide reasonable accommodations – i.e. a change made to your work schedule or duties – to accommodate employees’ specific needs during pregnancy and to allow them to do their job, unless it would create an undue hardship for the employer. Reasonable accommodation requests are highly fact specific, and if you are having problems performing at work due to your pregnancy you may want to review resources from the New York City Human Rights Commission, or consult a lawyer for advice on how to address the issue most effectively.
Anticipate concerns, Is there a big project, event or deadline that falls right around your due date? You should anticipate any concerns from your boss and acknowledge the issue. Women should expect to be an active participant in figuring out how their job duties will be handled while they are out on leave, and the initial conversation is a good time to set that expectation. You don’t need to have all of the answers during your first conversation, but convey that you are thinking about and planning for a smooth transition.
Confidentiality. Be clear with your boss or Human Resources representative if you want to tell others at your workplace before they do. But, HR represents the employer, not the employee, so you should assume they will inform management of your situation. Ask HR who they will tell.
Gather information in advance, if possible. If you have an employee handbook, review it before the initial conversation to check on your employer’s leave policies. If anyone else in your office has taken time off for pregnancy or other leave, take note, and if they are a trusted co-worker, you may want to ask them about their experience. This conversation may not be the time to discuss the amount of leave you will be taking, but you can say you are developing a plan with your doctor, and will discuss it in the coming weeks. You should start gathering information so that if your boss says something unusual or contradictory at the meeting or later on, it will be documented.
We hope this framework helps you set the stage for clear communication with your boss during your pregnancy. Pay attention to and document the details of those communications for yourself. If legal action becomes necessary at some later point, the details may determine the outcome.
Berke-Weiss Law PLLC started the Pregnancy Project to provide women and their families with resources to understand their workplace and health insurance rights. We are excited to partner with A Child Grows in Brooklyn to share some tips on what things to consider before announcing your pregnancy at work.