Finding out you're pregnant is so fraught with emotions and possibilities that it can be hugely overwhelming. It's a time of joy and nervousness and a whole lot more questions than answers, especially when it comes to your place of employment and your status in the company or entity where you work. This might not be a huge deal if you're friendly with your employer, or if your workplace is known to treat pregnant women well, but you might be hesitant if you're unsure. Do you have to tell HR you're pregnant?
Pregnancy isn't something that's easy to hide after a point, but according to FindLaw legal services, you're not under any legal obligation to tell your employer you're pregnant unless your occupation involves risk to your life and others, making your pregnancy a potential liability to your workplace. For instance, if you are a police officer, EMT, paramedic, firefighter, electrical engineer, nurse, or something else along those lines, you need to tell your employer as soon as you find out, because at some point, you might need to be placed on modified duty and they'll need to cover your work.
This is also the case for students who work with hazardous materials in the course of their education. Your education and the discrimination laws, in this case, title IX laws, apply to you as they would employer/employee, so reasonable accommodations must be made, according to The National Women's Law Center.
As someone who's been pregnant in graduate school, I will tell you, telling the higher-ups wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done. The entire upper echelon of academia in my department was all male, all over 60, and all pretty uncaring about the miracle of life, even though they taught class every day about the wonders of genetics and human reproduction — pretty ironic, right? When it came to me, you know, doing the actual reproducing, they were more worried about how my group projects would suffer. Because pregnancy would clearly eliminate my ability to pick up all the slack in my group work with the partying dudebros they repeatedly paired me with.
In the third trimester of my pregnancy, I had to appeal to the provost's office and the Dean, along with the university's legal counsel to argue that accommodations had not been met, and I was being placed in a compromising position.
I wish that I could say that this is uncommon, but according to attorney Tom Spiggle, author of You're Pregnant: You're Fired, it's all too common. In fact, pregnancy-related discrimination lawsuits have seen a recent uptick, signaling that this problem isn't going away any time soon.
That being said, do you have to tell HR you're pregnant right away if no one is in any immediate danger? According to Spiggle's book, you don't have to, but you should. The idea is to let them know, but you don't have to give them any more than that until you need to — meaning if you need to go on leave for a period of time during your pregnancy, or need to alter your work schedule. Spiggle also told Fortune that your best bet is to be well prepared and highly organized and efficient so that in the event that you do go on-leave unexpectedly, your work can be completed smoothly by someone other than yourself. No one wants to field calls on maternity leave, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
In the end, it's best to let them know early, and get prepared. Pregnancy is unpredictable, but you want your job to be as predictable as it can be, both for you and your co-workers and employer.
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