Despite ongoing wage and opportunity disparities, women today have a stronger presence in the workforce than ever before. Yet unfortunately, many still suffer from the effects of misogynistic stereotypes and reductions, and nowhere is that more evident than the area of motherhood and maternity leave. In a time that should be about joy and anticipation, many feel anxious about having to break the news to our bosses — even female ones. It's important to know your rights so that you can be prepared to advocate for yourself with confidence. So when do you have to tell your boss you're pregnant? And what do you need to know about maternity leave? Getting informed can save you a lot of unnecessary worry.
Lawrence P. Schaefer, a Minneapolis-based lawyer whose focus is workplace discrimination, assures Romper that, "Legally, an employer is not allowed to discriminate against an employee on the basis of real or prospective pregnancy, except in very limited circumstances." The law team at Schaefer Halleen encourages mothers-to-be to determine for themselves when they are personally comfortable revealing their pregnancy to their boss. There is no right or wrong answer, Schaefer attests, but is "solely up to you and your personal preference."
In an interview with Romper, Schaefer explains that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is actually illegal. Such discrimination is prohibited by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) — an employment fact that more women would do well to familiarize ourselves with. Additionally, Schaefer notes that most individual states also prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy in their own legal systems as well.
Although there is no required time to alert your boss about a pregnancy, Schaefer advises working women to consider doing it earlier than you might think. "Get familiar with your company policy and recognize that sometimes the sooner you tell your boss, the sooner they can be prepared to help you transition and also prepare for your replacement (if necessary)," he notes.
If you'd like more guidance, you might only need look as far as the nearest computer. Fairygodboss is a career community for women to share their workplace experiences and learn the inside scoop on the culture, benefits, and policies at their employers. One Fairygodboss representative, Mary Pharris, tells Romper that one of the first things a working woman of childbearing age should do is familiarize herself with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
"In addition to FMLA," Pharris explains, "women should also inquire about any company-specific policies like paid leave versus unpaid leave, short-term disability insurance, length of leave, etc." Depending on your company and position, the process of making a maternity leave plan can potentially be quite involved; this could be one reason to notify your boss sooner rather than later, so that she or he can work with you on crafting a postpartum plan that suits both the company's and your needs.
Pharris notes that many women have been helped by Fairygodboss' Pregnancy Week-by-Week guide to assist women in navigating tasks like breaking the news to their employer, researching applicable laws, building their maternity leave plan, and other issues that arise.
Figuring out how much time to take off after the birth, or even whether to return to work at all, can be an emotional and sometimes stressful thing and can put a damper on the pure joy and anticipation that you deserve to be feeling. Hopefully it will give you some degree of peace to know that at what point you choose to reveal the pregnancy in your workplace is completely up to you. (Well, with the cooperation of your expanding uterus.)
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