Lesson Learned: Should You Come Clean About Your Pregnancy When Interviewing for A Job?
Many years ago, I found myself facing an ethical dilemma. I was attempting a career transition. As a local TV news reporter for many years, I had burned out on the daily grind of covering murders, fires and snowstorms. I wanted more meaning in my life and believed the nonprofit world would make me feel inspired and give me more career satisfaction.
I found a wonderful creative nonprofit that was improving the lives of inner-city kids. I knew the minute I heard about it that I wanted to work there. They had a position open and I began a lengthy interview process.
And about half way through the process, I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I wanted to have a family but hadn’t expected it to happen so fast. I planned to work full time after the baby was born. But what should I tell my potential employer?
If I told the organization about my pregnancy, I was certainly risking not getting hired. Despite the fact that pregnancy discrimination is illegal. (An employer cannot treat a woman differently because she is pregnant, may become pregnant or because of a pregnancy-related leave of absence.)
But I’m a realist. I was convinced I would not get the job if I admitted the truth. So I remained silent. By the time I was hired, I was 4 months pregnant. By the time, I started, I was 5 months along and definitely having trouble concealing it. Plus, the mental anguish of keeping the secret was overwhelming me. I had to divulge the truth. Before my belly completely popped out.
It was worse than I ever imagined. My new boss was angry. Really angry. And I couldn’t really blame her. This was not how I wanted to start a new job. Plus, this dream job turned out not to be so dreamy. In general, my boss was erratic, extremely demanding and difficult. On the upside, I loved helping the kids, I excelled in the position and my co-workers were wonderful.
Then I had my baby. My full-time working plan vanished in a moment. How could I leave this incredible little being five days a week? I ended up going back part-time which was a good compromise for a few years. I eventually left because I couldn’t handle my boss and I wanted to return to my journalism roots.
I have always regretted the decision I made to keep my pregnancy a secret for so long. I am a very honest person and it never felt right to me. If I told the truth, maybe they wouldn’t have hired me. But perhaps something else would have worked out that would have been a better fit. Or maybe I wouldn’t even want to work for a company who I suspected would discriminate against a pregnant woman. Perhaps another company would have even been impressed with my integrity? It’s impossible to know.
In the end, any pregnant woman facing this dilemma needs to choose the best path for herself. A woman desperate for income and a job may find it’s just too risky to come clean before she is offered the position. And I wouldn’t judge her for that. Because given the choice between two-equally qualified candidates, wouldn’t an employer always chose the one who won’t be going on maternity leave? I think this is a fair assumption for any expectant mom in the current U.S. workplace culture. Hopefully, one day this might change.
But for me, this decision is on my list of regrets. And, the lesson I learned is that staying true to my moral compass is more important than any job.