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When Should I Tell My Boss I’m Pregnant? (The New Employee Edition)

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

I love your style of writing and think you’re swell. I need help and fast.

In the first full week of July, I turned 29 (yeah!!!), started a new math based job in a large city after being laid off for more than 4 months (double yeah!!!), and, uh, realized I hadn’t had a period in June. I took a pregnancy test that was positive!!! Then, I took another one (triple yeah!!! and also… Gulp).

My husband and I hadn’t actually been trying, but we hadn’t been doing much by way if prevention, either.

We are both happy, excited, and a bit surprised.

Here are my questions for you:

When do I tell my (stern looking, older male) boss about this? (side note, the work has been challenging, interesting, and low pressure, but the people are not what I’d call personable. At all. Like my first day a lady dropped me at an empty desk with some training videos, forms and a pen and no one said a single word to me the entire day until 4pm. I guess I am trying to say it’s very quiet and I have no allies to confide in)
Can they let me go because of this? I will not have worked there a full year and will not qualify for the FMLA.

What on earth should I do?

I’m really excited about the baby. I’m not sure I’ll go back afterwards, but maybe part-time if that was an option. For now we really need the cash. I am just spinning with these changes!

Thanks,
anonymous

Okay, so there are really only two ways to handle telling your boss you’re pregnant, and deciding which option is right for your particular workplace and situation is a call that only you can make. Basically, read them and see which one makes you instinctively cringe less:

1) Tell them ASAP, or right when you hit the beginning of the second trimester. Personally, I went with this option — but I had a wonderful boss and a wonderful relationship with said boss. I’d watched more than several coworkers have babies and knew that the company was very supportive of pregnancy and families and babiesbabiesbabies! We loved baby showers and wedding showers and birthday parties. To NOT tell my boss would have been weird, and since I did feel like my work performance was suffering a little bit (sooooo sick at first. SOOOO SICK.), I wanted him to know as soon as possible what the real story was: I wasn’t checking out, looking for another job, on drugs, whatever.

2) Tell them later, once you really and truly start to show. This one is a double-edged sword, and should be used carefully: on the one hand, as a new employee, you’ve had more time to prove yourself to him, and you can say something like, “look, I’ve made this far and my work has not suffered; you can have confidence that nothing will change just because you know that I’m pregnant.” You can even time the announcement with the completion of a big project, or after a positive performance review.

(Do you have a 90-day probationary period or three-month review? If so, perhaps wait until AFTER that, if you can. I’m all for honesty and professionalism, but like I’ve said before: don’t hand over an easy opportunity for a workplace to do the wrong thing.)

On the other hand, some employers will think you’ve hidden something from them, and resent you for it. You may unexpectedly have to go on bedrest, thus leaving them shocked and unprepared to train a replacement. Waiting to tell them is completely within your legal rights, but of course, your legal rights and interpersonal work relationships with your boss and coworkers exist on slightly different planes.

Speaking of your legal rights, KNOW THEM. It is absolutely and completely 100% illegal for them to let you go because you are pregnant. (It is not illegal to fire a pregnant woman, but OHH MAN they better have a damn good reason and a LOT of evidence and a mile-long paper trail to back up that reason.) Read your employee handbook, make an appointment with your HR representative, and know exactly what kind of benefits you are entitled to once the baby arrives. (Sick days, personal days, short-term disability — these are options for you even without the protection of the FMLA.)

As for your post-baby plans, well, I get that in a PERFECT world, you tell them as far in advance as possible if you don’t plan to come back, or want part-time work, or whatever, because it’s the Most Fair Thing to your coworkers, but…in the REAL world, I think it’s smart to keep every door open to yourself for as long as possible. As many, MANY commenters pointed out the last time we discussed this subject, you may have every intention of not going back to work, but then your husband could lose his job or some other financial catastrophe occurs and you simply MUST return to work. And as a first-time mother, there’s just no way to predict what you’ll want to do afterwards. The reality of maternity leave can change your mind about SAHM-ness, pro and con.

So…yeah. Real helpful advice here, I suppose. When do I tell my boss I’m pregnant? You tell him now…or you tell him a bit later. Not really any other creative solution I can come up with, and I think there are good and bad things about both approaches. For your particular case, I’d say you should figure out whether your boss’ impersonal manner is just that: he’s just not really into workplace camaraderie or chitchat or is really uncomfortable thinking about the contents of a younger female employee’s womb. None of this means he’ll automatically be an unprofessional, discriminating jerk, you know? He might simply nod, extend a cold congratulations, and then secretly pray that you never, ever mention the word “pregnancy” again. Since he is older, chances are you are NOT the first pregnant employee he’s encountered. The key is to figure out if his sternness masks an ugly side — a side that would take an announcement at 12 weeks and turn it into a dismissal at 20.

If you do suspect that, arm yourself. Work hard, work well. Talk to Human Resources. I know your workplace isn’t super warm and friendly, but if you can figure out if anyone has gone through pregnancy there, it would be worth making a real honest effort to get to know her and find out when she told and how the news was taken.

Since you won’t have the FMLA guarantee of a job after 12 weeks of leave, you definitely want to stay on your employer’s good side. That could mean owning up right at 12 weeks, impressing them with your honesty and eagerness to ensure a smooth transition. Or it could mean keeping your news on the quiet side, impressing them with your dedication to your job and ability to not let a little thing like PREGNANCY impact it in the slightest. I wish I knew which one was right for you, but I don’t. (I also wish women didn’t have to agonize over this topic and worry about making the “wrong” decision about when to tell. I wish there wasn’t a “wrong” decision.)

 

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Lilly
Guest
Lilly

Firstly, congrats!
Secondly my sister (so it may as well have been me :), just had her baby. She had every intention of taking time off after baby arrived. It’s been two weeks and she’s back at work! She just got up one morning and couldn’t stand the thought of sitting around the house all day again. Fortunately she has a baby friendly work and can take breaks to pump or whatever. But yeah, Amy’s right about not burning bridges because you just don’t know what’s going to happen or how you are going to feel!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I would wait beyond 90 days if possible. (That’s 90 days of employment). In most states, a 90 day “trial” period is an unwritten rule of thumb, during which dismissals can be made with little legal ramification. Though a dismissal-due-to-pregnancy is still illegal, it would be easier for them to say you actually sucked at your job and the pg. had nothing to do with it if it’s still within 90 days, thus harder for you to win a charge against them. I would also somehow very subtly, sweetly, and non-threateningly make sure that they know that you know your… Read more »

gizella
Guest
gizella

Yay! and scary! While not the same situation, I knew I was going to try for a baby pretty soon after being hired (this was after 6 months of working temp and them dragging their heels, i consider that their fault) and actually got pregnant the first time i tried (so not prepared for that). Due to medical complications, i did not tell ANYONE but family until 5 months in, because, what if it didn’t work out. Then I told my boss. And she proceeded to work me into the ground, I mean, I went on business trips until 36… Read more »

Erin
Guest

The last time I started a job (January of 2008) I was pregnant. I told my boss when I was about two months pregnant. I figured I wanted to make sure my first pregnancy was going to make it, and I told her that I was pretty sure I wanted to come back to work after an 8 week leave period. When I was about 6 months pregnant I got really sick and had to switch to part-time, and about the same time I realized that we were going to move so that my husband could go to school and… Read more »

Kim
Guest
Kim

Even if you don’t have FMLA rights, you may be entitled to other rights pursuant to state law. In my state (Minnesota), an employee is entitled to six weeks unpaid parental leave. Check your state’s law … it could provide you with some relief.
And yes! Educate yourself before mentioning the pregnancy to your bosses. Know your rights and formulate a plan that not only works for you, but takes into account the needs of the company.

jive turkey
Guest

I feel for you, anonymous. I took a new position within my company last year, and the day after I got the job, I found out I was pregnant. I kept it from my new boss for about 2 months, and after he found out, he became suddenly and mysteriously very unhappy with my performance. Long story short, he made things MISERABLE for me, in the style of a boyfriend who wants to break up with you but doesn’t have the balls to do it, so he just treats you like crap until you bail. I KNOW he was trying… Read more »

Monica
Guest
Monica

I was a contractor for a company, which means they could discriminate against me right and left. Even funnier, it was a company of lawyers. Like I would have had any chance if I had tried to sue.
I wished I had just called them from the hospital to tell them. Until I told them right away, and was taken off many projects which cost me thousands of dollars. I was forbidden from traveling after about 5 months – ridiculous.

Amanda
Guest
Amanda

I worked in Human Resources for about 10 years before accepting a transition to another branch in my company. I discovered during the application/interview process that I was pregnant. I did not choose to disclose to either my current boss or the potential new ones. It was none of their business, it had nothing to do with my fit for the position, and it was a bridge I could cross later. I made the job transition at roughly 14 weeks. I was starting to pudge, and while I assumed it was totally obvious that I was pregnant, it wasn’t. So… Read more »