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Should I hide my pregnancy from a potential employer? – The morning sun

Q: I have an interview for a job that I think I am extremely qualified for and I really want to. However, I am just over four months pregnant. Should I mention it during the job interview? My mom says it’s fair to let the employer know that if I’m hired I’ll have to take time off. I want this job and I don’t want to lose it because of my condition. What should I do?

A: You shouldn’t say anything. Your potential employer has no rights to this information. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, passed in 1978, an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of pregnancy in any aspect of employment – hiring, firing, salary, work assignments, dismissal, training, benefits or any other “terms of employment”. employment.” While the PDA only applies to workers with at least 15 employees, Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act also prohibits pregnancy-related discrimination and applies to employers who have no only one worker.

An employer who rejects the most qualified candidate because she is pregnant – or who refuses a raise or promotion because of a worker’s pregnancy – is breaking the law, even if the possibility that the employee is on leave in several months might seem like a justification. This is not the case. Asking a candidate about a possible pregnancy is just as wrong as asking potential workers if they have any underlying health conditions that might require surgery within the next year. (An employer is allowed to ask if a potential worker is able to meet job requirements, such as being able to lift 60 pounds or stand for hours at a time.)

In an ideal world, respecting the prohibitions contained in the PDA would have become commonplace after more than 40 years, but this is very far from an ideal world.

Discrimination based on pregnancy is widespread. It affects women in low-wage and high-wage jobs, and even in workplaces that are supposed to be dedicated to helping pregnant women. (In 2018, Planned Parenthood was accused of mistreating its pregnant workers.) Visibly pregnant women are less likely to be hired, and those who refuse to reveal their status in an interview are often viewed as dishonest. Pregnant workers are less likely to receive promotions and are sometimes fired as soon as they reveal their pregnancy.

However, it is increasingly important to rid the workplace of discrimination against pregnant workers. Women make up nearly 50% of the US workforce, and 85% of working women will become mothers at some point in their careers. In 2018, two-thirds of working women with children under 18 worked full time.

Whether out of desire or necessity, the fact is that more pregnant women are working, and working later in pregnancies. According to a 2021 report from the Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in the early 1960s, only 45% of women worked during their first pregnancy; in 2008, approximately 65% ​​of women worked during their first pregnancy; today, almost 70% of women work during their pregnancy. In the 1960s, around 65% of pregnant workers stopped working more than a month before the birth of their baby. In 2008, 82% of pregnant women continued to work until a month or less before giving birth. And the stories of women who continued to work until they had to be taken to hospital are many.

Proving a case of pregnancy-related discrimination in hiring, however, can be a tough line to hoe. A pregnant worker must be able to demonstrate a connection between her pregnancy and the “adverse action” – the decision not to hire (or to fire, or to demote, or to deny housing to etc.). In a hiring context, this is often difficult to prove, as a pregnant worker will generally not know the qualifications of other applicants, the quality of their interview, or whether they had an existing relationship with the company or employer. And employers who do not hire a pregnant candidate may try to cover their tracks. One manager told us that if he knows a candidate is pregnant, he will have a hard time looking to find a more qualified candidate to protect his company from being accused of discrimination.

In fact, employers are usually pretty good at finding a neutral reason to treat pregnant women unfairly. A 2014 study found that 30% of employers cited “poor performance” as a reason for firing a pregnant worker; 15% cited lateness or attendance, and 10% cited “business needs, profit and efficiency” as reasons for discriminatory actions. The problem is that policies that employers say justify firing, demoting, or disciplining pregnant employees are often not used against non-pregnant workers, “including those with lower performance and attendance”.

Being a working mom – as almost any mom can tell you – is hard work. America’s pro-business policies don’t make it any easier.

The US healthcare system even leaves insured workers with exorbitant deductibles, so the joy of parenthood often comes at the cost of indebtedness. We are also the only wealthy country that does not require employers to provide paid maternity leave; in Europe, new parents have an average of 14 months of paid leave (the maximum here is 12 weeks, unpaid, and is only mandatory for those working for employers with at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius ). Unsurprisingly, almost a quarter of new mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth, to the detriment of both mother and child. America also offers little childcare assistance to working families, and those costs can be high; in 2016, the average cost of daycare for two children was estimated at $18,000 per year. Some mothers believe they cannot afford to have a child; others decide to leave the labor market and take care of their babies themselves. But this decision has its own price. A 2014 Center for American Progress report found that workers can expect to lose up to three or four times their annual salary for each year out of the workforce.

But before you have to worry about any of that, you first have to get that job. Don’t give a potential employer a specious reason not to hire you based on factors they are not legally entitled to have. Discrimination is illegal, but it is also common. Keep silent about your condition.

And, by the way, congratulations!

Troy’s attorney, Daniel A. Gwinn, has a practice focused on employment law, civil rights litigation, estates, trusts and estates. Contact him with your legal questions at [email protected] or visit the website at “Ask the Lawyer” is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.