my new hire didn’t tell me she’s pregnant — can I fire her?

A reader writes:

After four weeks on the job, my new employee has told me she is almost five months pregnant and did not say so at the interview because she’d been told that no one would employ her. I feel lied to. Do I have any rights on this issue? Can I terminate her or legally do I have to keep her on?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How do I give awkward feedback to a client?
  • Letting my office know about my child’s transition
  • How to advertise our organization’s great work/life balance

{ 407 comments… read them below }

  1. Rosyglasses*

    “Accepting that is part of the deal when you employ a workforce made up of humans.”

    I feel like that phrase can apply in SO many situations where employers are like… ‘Hmmm, can we do this thing that solves an inconvenience to us?”

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I use variations on that phrase all the time, and it really does prove to be helpful! A lot of the time people who need to hear it have just gotten tunnel vision on some kind of metrics or output – they aren’t bad people. When you help them recontextualize, they usually calm down.

      There are other kinds of people, of course, but this is a starting point that assumes good intentions.

    2. ZSD*

      Of course, this also reminds me of the stance of former Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s CEO Andrew Puzder, who preferred to replace employees with robots because the latter never take a sick day, never get pregnant, and never file discrimination lawsuits. So for some people, the way to solve the inconvenience is to no longer have a workforce made up of humans.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I was just saying this morning, my job is safe from AI because I was looking at a medical chart that our computer-assisted coding system had completed with codes for “the patient delivered a baby on this encounter”, “routine postpartum return visit,” and “elderly primigravida, second trimester” (which are codes that are all mutually exclusive).

          1. Dulcinea47*

            You’re assuming anyone will care if its accurate. One would hope that’s the case with patient care, but judging by how my insurance does things, they sure as heck don’t.

            1. AMT*

              Yeah, I always hear people say “X job can’t be replaced by AI because it’s too nuanced,” but that’s only true if those in charge of hiring for the job actually care if the work is done well. I’ve seen too many instances of highly skilled workers with extremely complicated jobs being replaced with cheap, unqualified *human* workers, so it can’t be that long before someone thinks it’s a good idea to replace them with even cheaper AI.

              1. Jenny*

                That totally happened to my husband who used to do ordering for a major hardware store. After he was replaced by a computer the inventory levels went way up, including a large amount of un-sellable inventory. Didn’t matter. Performance that would have gotten the humans fired (or disciplined) is now totally fine.

              2. Cloe*

                I work in regulatory writing for submissions to the FDA. My job is a) way too nuanced for AI and b) the job has to be done well otherwise meds don’t get approved for market or indications.

              3. Worldwalker*

                That reminds me of how how Phil Schoonover cratered Circuit City by (among other things) firing all the best and most experienced employees and replacing them with minimum-wage, minimum-effort workers who knew exactly how much the company didn’t care about them.

                That wasn’t the only thing, of course, but that was emblematic of his approach to management. (as was the fact that, at the same time, he gave the upper management million-dollar retention bonuses)

              4. Lily*

                “that’s only true if those in charge of hiring for the job actually care if the work is done well.”
                Omigod. This. 100% this.

          2. MountainAir*

            This is only a sidebar, but boy howdy is “elderly primigravida” up there with “incompetent cervix” and “geriatric pregnancy” in the list of pregnancy terms we need to update!

            1. Illyria*

              Geriatric pregnancy was a fun term to be told when I was 34 and due after I turned 35. Advanced maternial age was used also in place of it.

              1. Her Blondeness*

                ITA, Illyria. I saw that on my chart as I sat next to a young woman approximately half my age (pregnant at 40) who started listing all her chronic medical conditions (no walls, just curtins in the exam room). I just fixed my nurse practitioncer with a *look* and said, “How is that even relevant”. Didn’t get a good answer.

              2. Clisby*

                I know! My children were born when I was 42 and 48, so I guess I was in the geriatric pregnancy category. Two normal, easy pregnancies, but obviously I was ancient.

                1. Bruce*

                  The women in my late wife’s family were great at producing a “surprise baby” in their 40s, after our second child was a surprise at age 41 she went and got long term BC… as an example, my late wife was 6 months younger than her niece… then when the niece had a child in her later 40s her husband’s co-workers hosted a big baby shower for her and said “Thank you for making sure your husband will NEVER be able to retire!” Joke’s on them, kid is an adult now and the parents are both taking a well earned break…

              3. allathian*

                I hear you, I was 36 when I got pregnant in the first cycle of trying, no less, something I certainly did NOT expect, and 37 when our son was born. Geriatric pregnancy meant I had a few more appointments with the ob/gyn than younger expectant parents got, but other than that it was NBD.

                1. CanadianPublicServant*

                  I cannot see “NBD” without immediately thinking “No B.D. Wong, who teens think is a very bid deal,” per the hilarious joke on Bojack Horseman. Those diverse panels of white men in bowties strikes again!

            2. pope suburban*

              At that point you’ve almost rendered the words meaningless. “Elderly” and “geriatric” are words that describe states of being that occur well beyond ones reproductive years. Trying to append them to pregnancy is bizarre and inaccurate.

              1. ShanShan*

                A lot of terms like this that doctors use are holdovers from the days before HIPAA, when medical records were just the doctor’s private notes. They didn’t have to worry about how the patient would feel when they saw the notes back then, because a patient never would.

                It’s where a lot of the off-color acronym/Latin jokes originated, too. These days, you can’t get away with noting that a patient is displaying symptoms of craniorectal inversion the way that you used to.

                1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                  Even if they are, she sighs…perhaps ChatGPT will come up with a term that means the same name but can fly by?

              2. whingedrinking*

                I remember encountering someone once who insisted that a geriatric pregnancy was any pregnancy after *25* and got very angry when I laughed at his assertion that “tons of doctors” agreed with him. Not even in the Middle Ages was thirty considered too old to have a baby, my dude.

          3. MBK*

            Every job that’s not safe from AI used to be a job that was safe from AI. Machine Learning is advancing and closing these kinds of gaps at an alarming rate.

      1. Heffalump*

        Years ago an executive from one of the American automakers was showing Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers, some early industrial robots. He said, “You’ll have a hard time collecting union dues from them.”

        Reuther said, “You’ll have a hard time selling cars to them.”

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I love that. Not only do people often buy the products they help create, they talk them up to friends and family! Considering that people, as a rule, trust recommendations and reviews from other humans over pretty much every other metric, replacing employees with robots immediately loses a huge amount of precious word-of-mouth advertising.

        2. Worldwalker*


          Business executives are salivating over the idea of companies with no employees except themselves. I’m wondering who they think their customers will be.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            it’s amazing how someone who was as extreme right wing, as hardline capitalist, and as much of a “person to be described with terms unsuited to this website” as Henry Ford still remembered he had to pay his workers enough to buy his cars (and figured out they gave him better work and more productivity if he kept their hours to 40 a week). It terrifies me that in business circles that seems to be seen now as unthinkably lefty, considering his actual politics.

      2. OMG, Bees!*

        Not as blatantly bad, but once had a boss who would “joke” that he wished he could chain us to our desks so we wouldn’t leave.

  2. JAnon*

    As a woman, particularly one who is currently expecting, question 1 angers me so much. We deserve to be employed just like anyone else. If this is an employee you found valuable enough to hire, she will still be valuable after taking time off to recover from birth and caring for her newborn. There are 4 months of work you will get done with her, and then she will be back like 12 weeks later to continue that work. Pregnant women are not less than because of our status.

        1. JAnon*

          Right? I am thinking this is a remote worker who hid her pregnancy until she had to go on leave or something, which you still cannot fire for but would be pretty frustrating. But no, just exactly as bad as it reads at first.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            FMLA (if applicable) does require you to provide advance notice if you have advance notice of needing leave, as you would in a pregnancy situation. Doesn’t apply to this new hire, but in the case of an established remote employee, you can’t just wait until you go into labor to disclose a pregnancy.

            1. Michelle*

              If you have notice. My daughter had a case of “I didn’t know I was pregnant.” She was still getting her period every month, and when she went to the doctor because of vomiting in her first trimester, they told her it was stress and sent her home. She found out at 4 months, and only because she had an appointment with her GYN for another issue.

              She’s now 6 months and you wouldn’t know she was pregnant if she didn’t tell you. And she’s tiny! I don’t know where she’s keeping that baby, but I know it’s there because I’ve seen pictures! If we didn’t know she was pregnant, I wouldn’t guess it.

            2. Bob-White of the Glen*

              “in the case of an established remote employee, you can’t just wait until you go into labor to disclose a pregnancy.”

              You know there’s a whole show about women who didn’t know they were pregnant until giving birth….. :D

          1. Zombeyonce*

            Not all laws are good, but laws against pregnancy discrimination are good and so very necessary. I worry that LW might start avoiding hiring people who may become pregnant because of this situation or make up trumped-up reasons why the new employee should be fired. I’ve heard too many stories of “we don’t hire women of childbearing age” and “my interviewer asked me if I plan to have children” to feel great about the future of this workplace. LW’s new employee made the right choice by keeping it to herself!

        2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Same! I was looking for “We brought her on specifically to run Big Week Long Event which is taking place in 6 months. She really sold us on how well she would do at running the logistics during the event and being the “face” of the company for the week. I feel lied to because while she was talking about all the great events she would run during that week, she knew she would be on maternity leave!”

          Or like, she was hired to fly to remote oil rigs to evaluate them and now she both cannot fly and the company insurance won’t clear her to work in potentially hazardous locations.

          Just something that changes it from “It sucks we will lose her for 3 months” to “Literally, either the pregnancy or being gone over that specific period will cause her to be unable to do the most crucial thing her job entails.”

          1. Manders*

            We did hire a researcher to do live-virus Zika research, and as soon as she onboarded she disclosed her pregnancy. That was a bummer, but my boss thankfully had enough funds to shift the work around and hire someone else.

              1. BubbleTea*

                Faintly possible she didn’t know she was pregnant before, but surely knew she was capable of getting pregnant and the risks of Zika.

                1. Manders*

                  Yeah, I don’t think it was deception on her part. I think the timing was unfortunate. As a person she is absolutely lovely and I can’t imagine her knowingly applying and all of that (and she was from a different country so the hiring process was long – I think she got pregnant during that and found out right before starting). And also my (male) boss is absolutely the best, 100%, about all things family-related (and work related. Just the best all-around).

      1. Random Dice*

        Same here – tentative anger at the headline turned into fury upon reading it.

        This is so sexist and illegal and dehumanizing.

    1. Anonym*

      Yep. I read it as, “Hi Allison, I am the problem.”

      If the person is a great fit for the role, they will be after X months, too. Don’t you want to keep good employees long term? This is temporary.

      1. Rosacoletti*

        But why should a business have to pay the significant costs of replacing that person, training them? Small businesses cannot sustain this

        1. ClaireW*

          That’s why there are exceptions for sufficiently small businesses, as mentioned directly in the response to the letter. But pregnant women can’t “foot the bill” for companies not wanting to pay them, either, that’s not reasonable or fair.

          1. Rosacoletti*

            Agreed, I thought it was important to give the perspective of small business. We don’t have big margins to cover this type of expense. My loyalty has to be to my existing staff.

        2. BubbleTea*

          This argument applies to literally anything that might happen to a human, and basically leads to AI replacing all jobs.

        3. Totally Minnie*

          I would argue that if you can’t afford to be prepared for one of your employees to need a 3 month medical leave (which could happen to literally any of your employees at any time for any reason) then you need to revisit your business plan. Whether your business is large or small, you employ humans, and you have a responsibility to treat them ethically when they have a medical need for time off.

          1. Rosacoletti*

            I’ve had staff off continually for mat leave for over 5 years so I know all about covering staff and related costs.

            Someone going on sickleave for 3 months is entirely different as they claim accrued payments. Not many people would have accrued 3 months of it (we accrue at 10 days a year) so it would be pretty unlikely we would be paying more than a few weeks at a time. I dont think I’ve ever had anyone claim more than 2 weeks in one go.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              If you’ve had staff off for mat leave and could cope, then why would this be different? Remember, the original letter is asking if they can FIRE her over it, not just complaining it’s difficult to sustain.

    2. Elle by the sea*

      People OP1 are part of the reason why people don’t disclose their pregnancy in job interviews.

      Is OP1 in the US? If so, maternity leaves are short, so it shouldn’t be much of a concern anyway. If they are in Europe where people go on 1 or more years of leave, then I can relate more to OPs concerns, but even then, firing her would be a really inhumane thing to do.

      1. Bumblebee*

        When I look back, from a decade later, on my maternity leaves, they were such brief blips in my work history, and such beautiful times with the babies (and frustrating, and exhausting, and inexplicable sometimes, but overall I am so glad I had that time). But absolute blips in my work history when compared with a couple of decades of contributions to my workplace. I feel the same about my employees who have taken maternity leaves – we miss them when they are out and are excited to have them back, but overall it’s just not a significant time away in terms of their lengthy careers with us.

      2. Poly Anna*

        Many European countries will have social business insurance in place to help companies bridge that period, though.

      3. amoeba*

        Yeah, in Germany, I can see how that would be more of a problem, especially as unfortunately the vast majority of women don’t come back fulltime after the year or two of parental leave that’s typical. So, if you hire somebody fulltime and then realise they will be gone for 1-2 years and then come back with 20 h/week, you’d still be an arsehole for reacting that way, obviously, but it would at least be slightly more understandable than “oh no, she’ll be gone for all of 12 weeks”.

        1. BubbleTea*

          The flipside is that it’s much easier to hire someone for one to two years’ maternity cover and potentially a job share afterwards than for three months’ cover.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            You know, I never thought hard on it before but it seems like a lot of my British friends were able to get secondments or hired on as maternity coverage for higher-level roles, and after 1-2 years they were able to land a permanent higher-level role for which they wouldn’t have been competitive without the temporary role experience. I got the sense that the relative abundance (compared to the US, at least!) was somewhat of a boon to people trying to move up because those kinds of temporary postings were more open to hiring someone for whom the job would be a bit of a stretch, than would be the case with the permanent versions of the jobs so they were a good way to get experience that you could leverage to get a higher level role after.

    3. Green Goose*

      I’m glad she published this question though because I think it’s important to remind people that coworkers, employees, bosses are human and that our humanity comes first.

      I’m a mom of two little kids and the question angers me too because I get it. People still need to be employed, especially when the US ties our health insurance to our employment. Paying out of pocket could financially destroy someone. (An aside, I had a surgery a few years ago with no overnight stay, no food or anything, just quick surgery and home by the evening. We had insurance but they showed us what we would have paid if I didn’t… $65,000!)

      I remember years ago, when I was not a parent, a woman was hired at my organization. Jenny was the manager and she was pregnant and expanding her team, she hired Lucy to be her first direct report. Within a month of starting Lucy announced that she was also pregnant, due the same month as Jenny. I remember thinking that Lucy had “lied” and put Jenny in a challenging situation, and that it was a “bad” thing to do. Thankfully, I never said this out loud and just…yuck. I hate that that was my thought process, but I think a lot of people think that way, so it’s really great that Alison published the letter.
      Spoiler alert, we were totally fine having two people on maternity leave. The organization didn’t implode, and Lucy ended up being a superstar at work. We were all sad when she left for greener pastures years later.

      We shouldn’t take out our frustrations on the Lucys of the world, we should be frustrated that we have a system where our insurance, and quality of parental leave is contingent on where we work.

      1. Random Dice*

        Exactly. The American stupid insurance system is the problem, not the humans doing the best they can to navigate the stupid system.

    4. Czhorat*

      Yes. And even if the LW weren’t ethically wrong (he is), it is inexcusable for anyone with hiring authority to not know the very basics of employment law; you can’t discriminate against pregnant people is a clear, unambiguous line.

      1. ferrina*


        “I didn’t know this health fact that would have caused me to discriminate against a job candidate. I thought the candidate was the best person for the job and hired them. Now I found out that the candidate has a protected health condition, and I’d like to fire them for that health condition. Surely it’s wrong that they didn’t give me a chance to illegally discriminate against them before I hired them?”

    5. Satan’s Panties*

      I think people who react like LW have the mindset of an earlier era, where women were not even allowed to be visibly pregnant at work. Or even if they were, their Husbands, because of course there must be a Husband, won’t permit them to return to work afterwards. People like LW can’t conceive, ha ha, of a working mother being a functional employee.

      1. Rainy*

        One of the many reasons I despise my MIL is that, on one of the very first occasions she and I spent any one-on-one time together, she told me in extreme detail about three times in her past that she had bullied pregnant people, including a story about she and her (I assume equally shitty little Mean Girl) friends bullying a teacher at her high school that they didn’t like, discovering as a result of the bullying that she was pregnant, and then bullying her even harder for being pregnant. The teacher, of course, lost her job (it would have been the late 60s or early 70s), and my MIL, relating this to me in the year of my patience 2023, was snee-snee-sneeing with glee about it, sixty years later.

        1. Heffalump*

          As a friend of mine says, some people don’t know they’re jerks, and some people are jerks and proud of it.

    6. Frankie Mermaids*

      I was four weeks pregnant when I accepted my current job. I had only known for 3 days. I hadn’t told my MOTHER yet. When I got back from maternity leave, our Head of HR made a crack about how I hadn’t been entirely honest in my interviews… Head of HR. This is so so common it’s not even funny.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Years ago I went for a job interview, a week later I still hadn’t heard anything yet. Then I found out I was pregnant. That drove the potential job out of my mind completely. I was about to give birth when I heard back that I had the job. It was a admin low level government job so I guess there was no hurry to fill it, but still.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Wait … you didn’t know you were pregnant when you interviewed, you were about to give birth when they got back to you about the job … how long WAS that? Even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t know until they’re quite a ways along, that still has to be a few months at least between interview and offer. They expected their candidates to remain unemployed for months waiting to hear back from them?

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Yes, government jobs are really like that. There are usually enough applicants they can just move onto the next one if their first pick is already working somewhere else.

          2. Bast*

            Let me give an example… in August I received a rejection I had applied for in FEBRUARY. I had forgotten all about the job at that point. That is not my first experience with the speed of government jobs.

            1. PresidentBob*

              After I graduated college the first time, I was applying everywhere criminal justice related. Nothing bit and I ended up joining the Navy to reset. Relating to CJ, most were government jobs, including federal. I got a call from TSA while I was in A-School (the first training after basic), a solid 2 years after putting in the application. It was the strangest set of calls, as they were really confused when I told them I was no longer interested, that I was in Pensacola Florida in the Navy and I would not be flying to Newark, NJ for a job interview (strange they wanted me in NJ as I applied in SC). Yes, calls. They called twice more to “confirm a time and date to come in for the interview.” I don’t know how many times I had to tell them I wasn’t moving forward with this.

          3. 1-800-BrownCow*

            My previous employer (small manufacturing company), I submitted my resume in January, had an initial phone interview shortly after and then heard nothing until late May, when HR called and wanted to schedule me for some in-person interviews. I did a full day of interviews with various people in June and didn’t receive an offer until late August and I started in mid-September. At first, I wondered if I wasn’t their first choice and other potential candidates fell through or didn’t work out. Nope, turns out the person I was replacing still worked at the company and he didn’t switch to his new position as early as they first thought. So that was the reason for the initial lag between phone interview and in-person interviews. By then it was summer season and people were on vacations and such, so it took time for the team to interview a few candidates, meet together and discuss who to make an offer to. I had interviewed at 2 other places during that time, but neither of those jobs panned out for me. Even though it took months from my submitting a resume and getting hired, in the end I was happy how the timing fit into my life. Although in my case, there was no pregnancy during that 9 months. But it worked out well for other life events.

      2. Pajamas on Bananas*

        So many people don’t even know yet at four weeks. It really just displays public ignorance.

      3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        My boss was ranting about a new hire who was pregnant. He maintained that she’d lied to him in her interview. She gave birth a full 12 months after the interview.

    7. Kayem*

      I was just reading a NYT article about how opera singers tend to lose their jobs after becoming pregnant. The companies often cite safety concerns, but the singers have disputed that it’s that much of an issue. I wish things like this surprised me, but I’ve had too many instances of flames on the side of my face to be shocked at people anymore.

      1. EC*

        Singing would be too “dangerous”? That’s some straight up Victorian “women can’t go jogging because their uterus would fall out” logic.

        1. 1LFTW*

          Yeah, I’m trying to wrap my head around a world in which opera singers do death-defying stunts while hitting those sustained high notes, and… nope. Can’t do it.

      2. MySister'sAnOperaSinger*

        I don’t think it’s a safety concern, but I think you actually would be unable to perform for far longer than one might imagine. When pregnant, your lung capacity is only going to get worse and worse, and the ab separation takes far longer than 3 months to recover from. You’re not going to be unable to sing, but your ability to project and sustain a note is going to tank at some point and take months of work before the ability returns. That’s not an excuse to fire them, of course, simply a recognition that opera singing is very physical and pregnancy is very physical and they’re going to need additional grace/support. (As does virtually every pregnant and postpartum woman in America)

    8. Rosacoletti*

      Really? As a small business owner, I recruit when I need someone. Not disclosing any type of upcoming leave would give me serious trust issues. Yes, in most cases I would not employ someone who was pregnant as the cost of covering them isn’t something my business could sustain.

        1. Rosacoletti*

          I’m quite happy to admit that it’s more important for the business to stay afloat for the benefit of the other employees. We have had at least one person on mat leave at all times over the last 5 years. It’s an enormous cost for us to bear but we are happy to do it as these are people who have been with us 6-10 years. We pride ourselves on the generous payment we give rhem, flexibility of hours when they return, which legally they can do anytime up to 12 months after giving birth in Australia etc.

          I cannot afford the same privilege to someone who is just being recruited as I only recruit when I NEED someone. Now, not in 6-52 weeks. There is no guarantee they will return, there’s every chance they won’t be able to work the hours we recruited them for (none of our returning mums have returned to full time working hours).

          There is nothing illegal in our process in our country and I absolutely need to put our own highly valued staff and clients first.

          1. ClaireW*

            >There is no guarantee they will return, there’s every chance they won’t be able to work the hours we recruited them for (none of our returning mums have returned to full time working hours).

            Literally thousands of working women around the world work full-time hours. Most jobs don’t give them an option so don’t act like it’s the standard thing that zero women ever work full-time as mothers just because your current employees don’t. That’s literally the whole point of this type of law, is to *prevent* people discriminating against women based on assumptions about how they’ll work/if they’ll work.

          2. amoeba*

            The system is very different in the US though – people usually go on leave for no more than 12 weeks or so and then come back fulltime.
            Also, typically if you hire somebody who’s pregnant, they will still work for you for several months and then be on leave for a few weeks and then keep working for you. It’s not like they’ll be like “oh sorry, actually, I’m out for a year, starting tomorrow”.

            1. Rosacoletti*

              The idea that people have to return to work a few weeks after giving birth is horrific. I honestly would find it really hard to expect someone to work at full (profitable) capacity before at least 3 months – and as a small
              Business owner, we can’t afford to pay people not working pretty much at full capacity. I’ve had 3 kids so I have some experience here.

              In Australia the government fund between 18-20 hrs paid leave and we top that up so lot team can have at least 6 months off before dipping into annual leave. We are legally obliged to hold the job open for 12
              Months and are required to show cause if we can’t offer flexible hours on their return.

              The US is soooo far behind the rest of the developed world.

                1. nodramalama*

                  I don’t think they have any idea what they’re talking about. They claim they are from Australia, and yes, it is also illegal in Australia to refuse to hire someone based on their pregnancy

          3. Bast*

            Attitudes like this are EXACTLY why potential employees do not disclose that they have a health condition. These kinds of attitudes ARE the problem, moreso than any health issue. It’s always insane to me that employers believe their current situation is so stable that a current employee cannot get pregnant, become injured, or develop a condition that requires them to take time off. Orrrr simply just quit. An employee can wake up tomorrow and decide they want to move to Fiji, switch careers entirely, or any number of things. Admitting to discriminatory practices so that you can maintain a false sense of security as far as staffing is a huge, huge, red flag. I understand that running a small business is hard, but admitting to actively discriminating is not really a good look either. Let’s say you hire someone new and a week later they get into a horrific car accident and need to be out a few weeks. Life is unpredictable that way.

          4. Lenora Rose*

            If you need them now, you have them now, and likely for at least 4-6 more months. What happens then is… that like many people who quit in that timeline, you don’t have them again. You even have a good likelihood that if (Big if, it sounds like) you treated them well in the meantime, you will get them back, and have to spend less time on training them.

            1. Rosacoletti*

              If a new staff member needs a few weeks off due to injury, that is fine and totally different. It’s an inconvenience but no cost to the business ( it would be unpaid as they will not have accrued many sick leave hours).

              Covering a mat leave, which can be up to 1 year here, will leave me at least $50k out of pocket but for some roles much much more.

      1. Hot Flash Gordon*

        Also, if your business can’t sustain treating your employees with respect and following basic employment law, then maybe you shouldn’t be hiring anyone at all.

        1. Rosacoletti*

          It is ALL about our employees and we far exceed legislative requirements. It’s no good to our staff if they business folds trying to accommodate one new employee with no proven history with the company.

          Small business is tough and a constant juggle to stay afloat.

      2. Moonstone*

        You’re really just admitting that you would break the law?? Please then do everyone the favor of stating your name and business right here so that everyone can avoid applying to work for someone so awful.

        1. Rosacoletti*

          Not breaking any law in Australia- our workplace rights far exceed those in the US and my company provide way more than we are required to.

          1. nodramalama*

            That is not correct. I highly recommend you look at the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website because discriminating against a prospective employee because of their pregnancy is an adverse action that would likely be unlawful.

      3. magicwhiskers*

        Not sure what part of “that is illegal discrimination” was unclear with Allison’s response?

      4. Christmas cookie*

        Assuming you are truly a small business (<15 employees) then you are exempt from this policy. Nor are you required to offer health insurance. And frankly, this is why.

        I say this as a mom of 3 who worked through all pregnancies and kids. Sometimes there are Reasons for exceptions and what this commenter said is one of them-
        The burden is huge on a small business.

        But a midsize firm? Forget it.

        1. Lunita*

          I worked for a small firm (about 13) when I was pregnant and they dealt with it. Honestly though part of the reason for the burden in the US is how messed up our health our system is.

          What do you mean you “worked through all pregnancies and kids?” You worked through pregnancy and went back without any leave? It really sucks when people can’t take even a few weeks off.

    9. Legislative employee*

      I have a question about this. I found out recently that in my new job with a government department that reports directly to the legislature, I’m not covered by most workplace protection laws. But I can’t get anybody to give me a specific list of which laws apply to me and which don’t. Does anybody know if legislative employees are protected by the pregnancy discrimination act?

    10. Pixx*

      I was agape and agog at that question. It’s like they didn’t even understand that the exact attitude they’re openly displaying is why they were “lied to” in the first place.

      (I don’t think a non-disclosure was a lie, to be clear; I just think it’s absolutely wild that someone can say “If she hadn’t ‘lied’ to me about being pregnant, I wouldn’t have hired her at all! She said something about being afraid I wouldn’t hire her if I knew she was pregnant? Anyway, I can fire her now, right?” with a straight face and zero self-awareness).

      Alison was much, much more measured and polite in her response to that LW than I could have been.

    11. Emikyu*

      And the thing is, anyone can end up needing medical leave, pregnant or not. I had a serious illness a few years ago that required me to be out of the office for several weeks, and unlike pregnancy it came on so suddenly that no one could plan for it. A friend of mine broke her leg and couldn’t work for a while due to the heavy painkillers she needed – again, this was sudden and unplanned.

      Life happens, and sometimes it means people will be out of work for a bit. Any functional business should be able to weather that – if your plan is to have no one get sick or need time off, that’s just unrealistic and unsustainable.

    1. rollyex*

      Laugh and cry and rage all at the same time. I was sort of hoping for a three-word answer from AAM: “No. Fire yourself.”

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      It could be argued that it’s slightly better than my initial response which was “sure, FAFO @$$face….” when I read the headline.

      My initial response never changed over reading, for the record.

    3. Manders*

      We had a woman who was hired, and then immediately upon joining the lab announced her pregnancy. The problem? We were studying Zika, and pregnancy precludes work on that (for obvious reasons). So then we had to find other projects for her to work on, and shift all sorts of funding around, and hire another person to work on Zika. In the end she was a pretty good researcher, we were glad she joined the lab even if it was rough in the beginning, and it all worked out for everyone involved eventually.

    1. INTJ in Texas*

      EXACTLY what I was thinking. If OP is in the U.S., this has been illegal since 1978. 1978! The OP may not have been born at that point!

    2. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      My mom was fired for being pregnant—with me. And I’m well below retirement age. Thanks for the early years of near-poverty, OP #1s of the world.

      1. Reality Check*

        Yes I was fired for the criminal act of pregnancy in 1997. This is how some people end up on food stamps. Then the world is mad at us for being on welfare…

      2. hereforthecomments*

        The only reason my mom kept her job when she had her first children (twins) was because her boss liked her and wanted her to come back. He didn’t have to give her any time off or hold the job for her. She didn’t get paid while off though, and one of my brothers spent a month in NICU, and I don’t think my parents ever recovered financially from that. Both worked but no insurance through their jobs–they paid off every cent owed to the hospital.

  3. Anya the Demon*

    Oh wow. I am glad at least they wrote in to ask. But wow. It’s people like this OP that make it hard for women to have financial freedom and equality.

      1. ferrina*


        I’ve seen it more times than I want to admit- a woman is underpaid and undervalued for either just being a woman or being a woman with kids. Her relationship isn’t great, her partner (usually a man) also undervalues her and doesn’t do his part around the house, but she can’t afford to leave him and it “isn’t that bad”. It becomes a question of “do I downsize to the point where my kids share a bedroom and I sleep in the living room so I can leave this person, or do I just accept that I’ll be chronically ignored and expected to clean up after them?”
        On the flip side, the lazy partner (again, usually #notall men) gets a great deal! They just have to do bare minimum (give or take) and have someone take care of them.

        1. Meghan*

          I’m a single mom and I have a great support system including a stepfather who works from home, so if my kid is sick or has a random day off school, I can usually figure out all the puzzle pieces so my kid is covered.

          But if he gets sick AT school or has a doctor’s or dentist appointment? That’s all me. My job is such that I can’t work from home all the time, but I can get things done if I need to stay home with my kid or because I am sick myself. Last year my son got the flu for the first time ever (and he was 6) and my boss, who was a single mom herself, really tried to guilt trip me over the fact that I wanted to go take care of my sick child. Never mind who I may or may not have to take care of my kid, he has the FLU, he is my baby and I’m not passing him around the family and getting other people sick!

          Now I work in an office where my boss starts harassing me for still working on stuff when I’m supposed to be leaving to get my kid to take him to the doctor to confirm his ear infection.

          1. Worldwalker*

            Having had one of those usually-childhood ear infections as an adult, isn’t the agony all the confirmation necessary? I totally understood why little kids scream incessantly with those! That was the third most painful thing that ever happened to me (and of the other two, one made me pass out and the other landed me in emergency surgery).

            1. 1LFTW*

              I’ve had multiple ear infections as an adult, and got over the last one a few weeks ago. This time I got ear drops instead of oral antibiotics, because it was otitis external instead of otitis media. That’s why they needed to look. (And presumably, to see whether there was no visible sign of infection, so they could move on to figuring out what was actually causing the horrible pain.)

    1. HowIMetYourAunt*

      Seriously, I’m currently expecting and going through interviews right now and this is exactly why I’m nervous about speaking up or keeping it quiet. I know it’s best to wait until I have an offer in hand, but I’d still feel terrible at that point – like I misled them. It makes me not want to interview altogether until after I have the baby.

      1. ferrina*

        It’s okay! You are doing the right thing.

        I interviewed while pregnant, and I only mentioned it when an offer was forthcoming. It was the right call, both for me and for them. They weren’t put in a position where they could be accused of discrimination (we never met in person, so they had no way of knowing), and I didn’t have to worry about it. Yes, I was out for a chunk of time just a few months after starting, but my long term impact there was well-worth it for the company.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        It’s ok! I did the same thing — interviewed while in my first trimester and started work in my second. When I told my boss I was pregnant, I’d already talked to my HR rep about how leave worked so the conversation was “I wanted to let you know that I’ll be going out on medical leave from (date) to (date) to have a baby. I’ve talked with HR and will be doing X, Y, and Z in the meantime.” He was surprised, but I think because I came to him matter-of-factly he just…went with it (he expressed his surprise, but wasn’t a jerk).

        I used the same method when I got back from leave and was pumping; I’d already researched the facilities available so just told him “I’m glad to be back! I’ll be in the mothers room twice a day to pump breastmilk, but I expect to be able to answer emails during that time. I have it blocked on my calendar so people know I’m not available.”

        He was *not* a great boss, but he never gave me grief for either!

      3. learnedthehardway*

        Don’t mention it, and don’t feel badly about it, either. This is why these laws exist – to protect people like you. You go on and do your part to normalize being employed while pregnant. All the best in your job search!!

  4. Some Dude*

    Re: #2, I’d hope your contracts have been updated to include specific guidelines in regard to the expected state the space should be left in, and vacating said space, complete with additional fees for cleanup/going over time. If so, go over those with the client. If not, add them, then go over them with the client.

      1. Cj*

        it sounds to me like they are clients for some other type of work that the OP’s company does, and renting the space is a side deal. I think they’re worried about losing the client’s business for the other work they do for them if they speak up to forcefully about the rental space condition.

    1. LCH*

      Add a cleaning deposit? Or a general deposit to be used for anything that happens against the contract. Then you have the money up front for it.

  5. Cyndi*

    I know it’s just how the article gets subtitled every week, but the characterization of this one as a “tricky workplace dilemma” made me laugh. It’s just about the most clear-cut NOPE I can think of!

      1. RVA Cat*

        I mean what’s next? “My team of coal miners dying of black lung object to me paying them in company scrip. Should my hired goons just shoot them or also their families?”

        1. Random Dice*

          Ha right?

          When the avatar everyone is imagining for you is twirling a handlebar mustache while tying someone to train tracks… Maybe you’re doing Life wrong.

  6. kiki*

    “My colleague suggested that I hint at the issue by saying that we’ve equipped the space with bigger garbage cans.”

    This is such a confusing statement! If I heard this, I wouldn’t fully understand what change is needed on my end and would be left guessing exactly what I’m supposed to do with this info. This contact asked for feedback and it’s actually really straightforward feedback to deliver! I know it can seem odd to imply that a client might be dirty or messy, but that’s really not what you’re doing. All events create trash. It sounds like last time there was a disconnect about who does the trash pick-up after the events– this time you can make sure the client knows what the expectation is.

    1. Ink*

      It’s so off topic- if you said that to me, it’s going to wind up in the same mental category as “we just repainted!” not “please be better about picking up after yourselves.” The indirect hint has its place, but definitely not THAT indirect!

    2. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

      Yeah, I feel like there’s “subtle” and then there’s “ a statement including no relation to your intended message at all”.

      Really the “we put in bigger garbage cans” suggestion as a critique of their past behavior is the kind of communication that could only be interpreted that way by someone with severe anxiety who reads wayyy too much into what people say to them. Any normal person being told that will be like, “Neat! Bigger cans.”

      1. Antilles*

        Yeah, to me, it just sounds like you’re letting me know about the annual updates to the event venue. You bought bigger trash cans, um okay cool, good to know I guess.

      2. ClaireW*

        > could only be interpreted that way by someone with severe anxiety who reads wayyy too much into what people say to them

        I was about to say “I think I’d get the hint” but hah yeah unfortunately this is me 100%

  7. LuAnne Platter*

    Somewhere an employment lawyer is gleefully waiting for the case that OP1 will inevitably trigger.

    1. Kacihall*

      the smaller the company the less they seen to understand about labor laws. fortunately for the really small ones they’re exempt so I was totally legally fired for getting pregnant after moving 400 miles for a new job. (I didn’t realize that when I got hired to work for a State Farm agent, I wasn’t working for the company, but directly for the agent. way easier to skirt labor laws for thy company if they make each agent responsible for them! )

        1. Kacihall*

          it was an insurance agency, of course it was sketchy as heck. they also didn’t offer health insurance because the agent had too few employees!

        2. Worldwalker*

          That’s State Farm for you. After Katrina, they denied claims from people whose roofs were blown by saying the damage was done by water (the resulting rain coming in) and therefore not covered. Yeah, the “water” clause was to preclude claims for flood damage, but State Farm twisted it to cover rain due to structural damage, and refused to pay the claims.

      1. Anon for this one*

        Yeah, the whole “small businesses can get away with anything” is really awful – it allowed the place I worked when we adopted our son to deny me FMLA (to say nothing of parental leave – as far as they were concerned you were only a real parent if you gave birth) since they were two employees under the cap. And it’s not like this was a mom & pop store, it was a tech startup.

    2. HotSauce*

      You have to be able to prove the employer did it for the scummy, illegal reasons, not the b.s. they come up with to get around the law. I’ve known several women who were fired for “other reasons” when they became pregnant. I worked with two people who were fired for “other reasons” while they were going through chemotherapy on FMLA. Businesses look out for their bottom line and we should ALL remember that before disclosing any personal information to them.

      1. LuAnne Platter*

        Well OP helpfully typed it out here, so I imagine they wouldn’t be very discreet if they actually tried to terminate the pregnant person. LOL.

  8. Kyle S.*

    How does one become a manager without somehow first learning that it’s illegal to fire someone for being pregnant?

      1. pope suburban*

        Also, some people just feel entitled to whatever, as they imagine they are the main character. I worked for someone with this kind of attitude at a small company once, and he’d just never really been told no. He had a very privileged background and it had allowed him to really buy into his self-image as some kind of powerhouse and benevolent job creator. As a result, all mental math that happened, happened in service of him and his goals. Interesting and not at all surprising to note that he was also a raging sexist, and would ex post facto justify that rancid attitude all the time. LW1 strongly reminded me of him and I hope, for their sake and that of humanity, that they continue the journey of introspection they began by writing that letter, so they can improve ethically.

          1. pope suburban*

            No argument from me there. Frankly, having met and had to work for him for three years, I am strongly in favor of him not being around people in any capacity, at least not unless and until he learns to behave. He was more passive-aggressively awful to his employees, but the way he treated his wife…if he’d ever done it in my hearing I don’t know that I would have kept my mouth shut. Some people are simply not fit for society and that guy was one of their numbers.

          1. pope suburban*

            Yes! The idea first came to me in AP World History in high school, for no reason other than “ha ha, these are both city types” and I’ve used it whenever I can’t think of a better handle ever since. You’re the first person to remark on it, though, so good on you! :D

      2. Magenta Sky*

        And some receive negative training, which is to say, they are trained specifically to do things wrong (or illegally).

      3. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

        In fact, I’d say it’s rarer for managers to get real management training than it is for them to get the absolute bare minimum when being promoted. I know good companies do it but I bet anything it’s less than 50%.

      4. Antilles*

        Also, even if there is training, it often seems to focus mostly on financial things that new managers have to deal with. This is how to approve a timesheet, here’s our expense report system, etc.

    1. Vio*

      From letters I’ve read here there are many, many managers who either never learned or forgot many of the important laws relating to their employees. Also lots of arseholes who don’t care about such things as anybody else.
      Hopefully they only seem like the majority because those happy with their managers are less likely to write in or be published.

    2. Trixie*

      Since they wrote to AAM about this instead of asking their HR department, there’s a good chance they don’t have an actual HR department. So there’s also a good chance they have fewer than 15 employees,
      and this law would not apply to them.

      I think the commenters here tend to work for larger employers, and forget a lot of us don’t have these protections at work, including FMLA.

    3. ClaireW*

      I know of a (female) manager who said she would ‘never again hire a woman’ because the first woman she’d hired after becoming a manager took maternity leave… a YEAR after starting the job. Unfortunately she only said it in non-work events so the company never cared but all the women in the industry I knew were aware never to work for/with her.

  9. grubbies*

    Stories like this make me feel like I’ve been very lucky in my career. I’m in dev/tech and I’ve had four kids at four different workplaces. Each company was reasonable and most were very gracious about my pregnancies.

    I actually interviewed while 6 months pregnant, told the hiring manager about it at my interview, and received a few extra paid weeks of maternity leave as part of my offer letter.

    There are good people out there. I hope everyone finds them.

  10. T.N.H*

    I always wonder if bosses like OP1 would be equally miffed if they hired a man whose wife was 5 months pregnant and intended to take parental leave. My guess is most wouldn’t have the same reaction which tells you how wrong it is.

    1. KHB*

      Would such a man (or a pregnant woman, for that matter) be eligible for parental leave, though? My (not-a-lawyer) understanding is that FMLA benefits don’t kick in until you’ve been with the same employer for 12 months. Of course, employers are welcome to have leave policies more generous than the law requires – but at an employer who would be miffed over something like this, that probably wouldn’t apply.

      1. Sssssssssssssss*

        My husband took the full 12 weeks of FMLA when I had our second child. His employer, a large pharmaceutical, was stunned at his (legal) decision and was not impressed.

        I believe this led to his very-out-of-the-blue PIP they put him on when he returned.


        1. She of Many Hats*

          I hope hubby pointed out to HR that the PIP looked a lot like retaliation for using a corporate benefit and/or gender discrimination.

          1. Sssssssssssssss*

            No, unfortunately. He was extremely hurt and angry and confused and blindsided and he quit instead. Our visa depended on the job and we immediately made plans to return home.

        2. Magc*

          My husband had a similar experience, although it was three decades ago. He’d only planned on taking 4 weeks of FLMA off when my maternity leave was over, but his boss who was _very_ particular about hiring wasn’t moving on hiring someone for a new level in between my husband and him. Between my leave ending and the fact that my FIL had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, my husband decided to take off the full 12 weeks.

          When he returned, he’d been demoted from lead to just a team member with the rationale that the team wasn’t big enough to need a lead anymore — and then another team member (without kids or a dying parent) was promoted to team lead in a year.

      2. Kell*

        This can vary a bit state by state. New York for instance has a Paid Family Leave Law that allows employees to take leave after 26 weeks of employment.

        1. KHB*

          Even so, someone who’s hired four months into (their or their partner’s) pregnancy is unlikely to reach 26 weeks of employment before the due date. Although I guess a non-birthing parent could time their parental leave to begin a few months after birth – I sometimes see couples stagger their leave like that anyway.

          1. BubbleTea*

            In the UK, you have to have been employed X number of weeks before a specific point in pregnancy (I believe it’s 15 weeks before the due date), which essentially means you have to have been employed 41 weeks before the due date. In other words, you’re not eligible for paid leave if you weren’t employed by the time the pregnancy started.

            That said, there is maternity allowance which pays the same amount as the legal minimum for maternity pay, and is paid by the government instead of the employer, so you still get some income and your job is protected the same way. You just don’t get any employer top up.

    2. rollyex*

      It’s important for men, and especially men in leadership roles, to take parental leave. All of it.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        And to NOT WORK while they’re on it. It’s common in academia for men to take “parental leave” and use the time to work 100% on research with no teaching or service load, making their tenure case look really great, rather than using it to actually take care of their kid. (I’m not in academia, but formerly was and have a ton of friends who still are).

        1. Momentarily anonymous*

          YES, there’s a guy in my department who took parental leave, set himself free from teaching and service expectations, and was in his nice quiet book-lined office all day every day making research progress while his wife and the nanny dealt with the actual children. His female colleagues, of course, had to work full-time throughout the process of actually producing a new human being and all the associated physical hardships that come with that, and then spent their parental leave time exhaustedly looking after the new baby.

        2. Ann*

          What if they’re doing both? I studied for a difficult professional exam on my first maternity leave. Baby was still taken care of. My husband helped as much as he could, but I was still doing both things on my own during the work day. Not having the daily work grind does free up space that you can use for something else, if you’re lucky to have a relatively calm baby that takes nice long naps.

          1. rollyex*

            The point is for men at least model that work comes second to parenting. To demonstrate that work is less important.

      2. LCH*

        The place I work now, one of the guys in the dept was out on parental leave when I interviewed. So I knew it was an ok place.

    3. Observer*

      My guess is most wouldn’t have the same reaction

      Actually *if* (and it’s a BIIIIG if) they offer parental leave, people like the OP would probably react WORSE. Because they would be *totally* blindsided that there exist men who actually *do* this. And also, even people this realize that women do have to take SOME leave, but what “excuse” does a man have?!?!?! Like how dare he do anything optional as a parent “at my expense”!?

      I mean, given the question, do you think he would really react differently?

      1. MountainAir*

        >And also, even people this realize that women do have to take SOME leave

        You would think this, but I have known more than one woman who came *right* back to work after giving birth because they were not given an option to take any leave. Birthing parents really have very few protections in the US compared to most other nations.

        1. Hrodvitnir*

          It really is horrendous. I’m from Aotearoa (NZ), and honestly our employee protections could be way better. And from what I can tell, if you’re white collar your working conditions in the US can be as good or better than here – except just a worse culture around taking leave, and precariousness of your work.

          Your laws and norms around parental leave? Actually horrifying. Even just the range of time needed to heal from an uncomplicated birth isn’t accounted for. I feel so much for American mothers (and anyone who gives birth.)

        2. rollyex*

          >And also, even people this realize that women do have to take SOME leave

          In the US there are not protections forcing this. Some women have to come back as soon as they are out of the hospital. I mean medically, they need to take some leave, but legally and economically not so much.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        Yeah my experience is that men daring to take more than a couple weeks of leave are met with all kinds of resistance and teasing. I always encourage every man I know to take the maximum they can possibly afford as a benefit to themselves, their spouses, and the movement at large.

        Unfortunately taking 12 unpaid weeks per parent is out of reach for most people and the person who just pushed a human out of themselves quite reasonably gets priority on taking the most leave in those cases.

    4. Required Name*

      Really? You think it’s likely that someone who would fire a woman for being pregnant is the type to be all in on dads taking parental leave?

    5. Cabubbles*

      My husband was actively looking for a job during my last trimester. He naively told all his interviewers. Every single one congratulated him and said it wouldn’t be a problem; that all he’d need to do is let them know when I went into labor. he said he didn’t get any negative feedback when he stated that he would need a minimum of 2 weeks. We had a long chat about sex discrimination and male privilege.

    6. Hiring Mgr*

      Not that it really matters but I would think that anyone with this attitude would absolutely think it’s ridiculous that a man would take parental leave for more than a few days.

    7. Niffler*

      At OldJob we had an internal transfer whose wife was pregnant, and he made it known that he would be using our parental leave to the fullest extent (12 weeks). Our director was absolutely gob smacked that (1) fathers were entitled to this benefit, and (2) a father would want to use said benefit! He also expressed several times that he felt lied to when we hired a woman who ended up being early in her pregnancy when she came on board, so…take that for what it’s worth.

    8. Working*

      i can assure you that they’d have the same reaction, except they’d try to bully the man out of taking it.

  11. MigraineMonth*

    I had a question about #3: is it appropriate to say the previous name as done in the example (“Sue is now Sam”), or is that an example of dead-naming?

    Or, as with most things in life, does it depend on Sam’s feelings and wishes?

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      It does depend on Sam’s feelings and wishes. I’ve heard the following from parents of teenagers I knew (or at least had met) before their transitions:
      * “Sue is using he/him pronouns now and going by Sam”
      * “our kid has come out as trans; his chosen name is Sam”
      * “. . . our son Sam, whom you may remember by a different gender and name”
      * “I’d like to introduce you to Sam”

      In every case I believe the language was workshopped with the kid before being shared with nonparent adults.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This is key. Some people are really okay with their deadname being used in the course of their transition because of the frustration of trying to work around it, or because they’re still adapting themselves so it doesn’t hit their ears as wrong yet. Some make a hard line of “now I am Sam and I do not want that name to be used ever again”. There’s a lot of in between and other. The important thing is that Sam is being respected no matter what.

    2. J.*

      Speaking as exactly one trans person who cannot pretend to speak for all trans people: yes, it’s deadnaming, but if I’m not present for it and it helps communicate the idea to people who aren’t used to learning new names/pronouns for people it wouldn’t bother me that much. What I’d be concerned about is people embedding it in their brain that way so I’m constantly referred to as “Sue–no, Sam;” if you can explain it without using the deadname that’s preferable but it’s not always possible.

      For what it’s worth, generally most trans people understand that we’re going to be referred to by our deadnames/old pronouns, particularly those of us who are recently transitioned or who don’t fit into the gender binary. How much that bothers someone is extremely personal and might depend on a number of factors (I’m more bothered by my friends doing it than my parents’ coworkers, for instance) but in general I’d say it’s more important to practice smoothly correcting someone without apologizing for it than to worry too much about any specific instance.

    3. Be Gneiss*

      I have a related question that came up this weekend and I’m hoping those that are knowledgeable about tact/kindness/appropriateness/not-putting-my-foot-in-my-mouth could help. My high-school-aged daughter was talking to me about another student at school, and from context clues I can pick up that this student has transitioned and taken a new name. She goes to a very small school, and I have at least a passing awareness of who most of her classmates are. (It’s been pretty much the same 60 kids for the last 12 years.) My daughter very carefully avoided deadnaming this student, and I couldn’t come up with a polite way of asking…who is this kid? Or who was this kid? Is there a way to ask? This time it wasn’t a particularly big deal that I didn’t get it figured out, but I’m sure as I go through life, this isn’t the last time I’m going to bump into this scenario, and I want to handle it right next time. The subject changed and I haven’t circled back to it, but since it is sort of related to the 3rd letter and the commentariat is well-versed in all of this, I thought I’d ask.

      1. PercyJax*

        Gonna start off by saying: I am not trans, and trans folks in the section may have a different answer from me.

        I think asking your daughter who so-and-so’s parents are might be a good way to go? Or what their last name is? Assuming you know the kids well enough, that information might be a good way to go so you can quickly contextualize who the person is without asking for their deadname.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Or “Is this a kid I have previously been acquainted with by a different name?” Shows understanding of the issue IME.

          1. Random Dice*

            This is how I’d do it. (I’m not trans, but my partner is.)

            We need to know which human we’re talking about, here.

          2. city deer*

            I’m trans and embedded in a majority trans social context and this is pretty much how we (as in my community, not all trans people ever) tend to approach it!
            “Oh is this someone I’ve known by a different name?”
            “Yes, you met them last year at that thing, they’ve got glasses and were dating so-and-so and told everyone about how much they liked llamas” etc etc.

      2. commentarian*

        Do you have a level of familiarity with the student to know who they are based on last name? Or some activity/club/class that they were in with your daughter? If so, I’d try that–it might jog your memory if your daughter called them “Jane Smith” or “Jack, my 10th-grade lab partner.”

        1. CG*

          Yep, I think you could probably just ask your kiddo, “hey, can you jog my memory: which classmate is Sam again?”

      3. Observer*

        and I couldn’t come up with a polite way of asking…who is this kid? Or who was this kid? Is there a way to ask?

        Well, I suspect that the first question you really need to answer is *should* you even be looking for a way to ask. What is the need to know? Is it just curiosity? Then leave it be. It’s ok to be curious. But that’s not a good enough reason to poke around.

        If you come up with a reason make sure it really *is* a reason, and not an excuse. And make sure that the reason is solid. Like, if you are the person who issues access cards for your site, you need to know. If you’re friends with the person who does that and “I need to make sure the my friend knows”, it’s an excuse for simple curiosity. Obviously I’m using extremes to make the point, but I think that that’s really the first step.

        I’ll defer to people with lived experience on the *how*, if you *really* need to know.

        1. Be Gneiss*

          I mean, no, I’m not the person in charge of issuing access badges to my kids’ classmates, so I don’t have a legal reason to know. I guess I’m trying to avoid accidentally deadnaming this kid later. Like seeing them at a school play and saying “still playing the clarinet, Tina?” and getting told “It’s actually Toby now.” And in our tiny, rural, very conservative school, I doubt the person issuing access badges gives a care if they’re using a deadname, so I was trying to figure out how to do better.

          1. Observer*

            I’m not the person in charge of issuing access badges to my kids’ classmates, so I don’t have a legal reason to know

            I didn’t mean necessarily a *legal* reason, but just a *good* reason. I was not assuming that you don’t have one, I’m just bringing up the point that it’s the first step.

            To me it sounds like you do have a good reason. But we all know people who conflate their own curiosity with presumed need to know. Since it was not clear from your question which it was I brought it up.

        2. doreen*

          At a small school, there’s a decent chance that the reason is “So I don’t call Sam by the deadname I’ve known them by for X years” My kids went to a small school with basically the same kids from pre-K to eighth grade and I knew every kid in each of their grades – and most of their siblings. That wouldn’t have changed if the school had included high school.

        3. Random Dice*

          It feels like you may be applying the “You don’t need to know the genital situation of trans folks unless 1) they want you to, and 2) you’re both planning on intimacy” rule to names.

          It’s not wrong to want to know which person has which name. You need to know which contact’s contact info to update, metaphorically.

          Don’t keep calling them by the deadname, but once, to connect them back to the right person, is fine.

          Trans people don’t tend to get angry at people who are respectfully navigating their transition, so please don’t create impossible-to-comply-with rules for respectfully navigating their transitions.

          1. Observer*

            It feels like you may be applying the “You don’t need to know the genital situation of trans folks unless 1) they want you to, and 2) you’re both planning on intimacy” rule to names.

            Kind of, but not really. I’m just thinking that something *similar* applies. In general, and this applies to anything sensitive, it’s just a good idea to think about WHY you are asking.

            Trans people don’t tend to get angry at people who are respectfully navigating their transition, so please don’t create impossible-to-comply-with rules for respectfully navigating their transitions.

            I’m not sure what is so “impossible” to follow here. I’m not claiming that no one can ever ask, or ever use the dead name just the one time to figure stuff out. I’m simply trying to say that whenever you want to ask about something sensitive, it pays to think about *why* you are asking.

            And while no one needs my approbation, it seems to me that if it’s to avoid making a mistake that could hurt someone, that’s actually a very god reason.

        4. Too Many Tabs Open*

          If I were well enough acquainted with my kid’s classmates that I could call them by name when I run into them in public, then yes, I’d like to figure out that Elizabeth is the kid who I originally knew as Edward before I see her in the game store and deadname her.

          As it is, I’ve never met most of my kids’ classmates, so I don’t need to know that James in geometry this year is the same person as Lucy in algebra last year.

        5. Worldwalker*

          What is the need to know?

          People generally want to know if a person being discussed is someone they know or not. It’s a “I just ran into Mrs. Smith — you probably knew her as Miss Jones before she married” kind of thing.

          When someone transitions, their entire pre-transition life and all their relationships, including passing acquaintances, don’t disappear. Those people still want to know if they know this person, or at least know about them (if they’re a child’s friend, for instance).

          You shouldn’t insist on calling a person Fred if their chosen name is Sally. (we’ve had too many letters about horrible people who did exactly that) And if someone is around the actual person, they should be able to attach the name “Sally” to their memories of the gestalt that is that person, which is far more than their name. But if they’re not around to be recognized, their name is the tag we know them by, and saying “Fred has transitioned and her name is now Sally” is clear and direct and avoids all kinds of bizarre dancing around trying to describe who someone is without using the name the listener knows them by.

        6. Ellis Bell*

          I believe the entire reason this question is asked here is to tap into that lived experience! The whole reason they haven’t asked earlier is because no, they don’t have any pressing need to know. That’s not to say that people in general are going to stop caring about their social circle, their kids friendships, or their more general social responsibilities (like not deadnaming people, or whether or not to refer to previous meetings or behave like strangers).

      4. Garblesnark*

        Jumping on the bandwagon to say, yes, you can ask questions like “Have I met [new name]? Is that a new name for [him/her/them use the new pronoun here]?”

        1. Be Gneiss*

          Thank you. It felt like A Thing to redirect the conversation back so that I could ask -like it made it about my curiosity – and that wasn’t what I wanted. But it feels important to call people what they want to be called no matter what the reason is behind the name change.

      5. Beth*

        You can just ask! This is a normal thing for name changes. “I don’t recognize the name Samantha, is she new this year or did she used to go by something else?” is a perfectly reasonable question. Your kid might respond with a clear name reference like “You knew her as Sam, FYI call her Samantha now,” or with a more context based answer like “She was my partner for that big science project last year, remember?” Either is fine.

      6. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        Several of my kids friends have transitioned and/or changed names for other reasons. I think it is fine to ask your child in this scenario especially since it is for the purposes of avoiding accidentally deadnaming.

        I’ve used the term deadname in the question as in “Could you remind me of their deadname so I can make the change to the new name if I run into them” Acknowledge that you know this is not the desired name.

        And because of the area I live in I always always ask, “Is their new name/pronouns safe to use in front of their parents and other adults in their life” I have at least one teen friend that I still have to deadname and misgender in front of their parents for their safety. I never assume that because they are out at school with their friends that applies to the larger world. EVEN if you know the parents and know that they would be ok with it, it is still up to the person and sometimes your kids might not be prepared to warn you unless you ask.

    4. metadata minion*

      Yup, echoing others that it completely depends. Trans people’s relationship to their birth names ranges from “kept the same name because it’s gender-neutral anyway” to “I absolutely do not want to hear that name again”. I’ve moved to going by my middle name for gender reasons, and I basically just swapped which name my mother has add to show she’s annoyed with me ;-) I made a hard switch at work because it’s just less confusing that way, but I still go by my first name in some contexts and genuinely don’t mind it.

    5. methionine*

      As a trans person I think it’s generally fine for the sake of practicality. It’d be one thing if you were calling your kid “Sam who used to be Sue” whenever you referred to him or revealing his deadname to people who didn’t know it before– that would be a problem because you’re referring to him in a way he doesn’t want to be referred to and sharing personal information in his absence. But when you’re having that initial conversation it’s often easiest to just say exactly who you’re talking so everyone’s on the same page.

    6. Random Dice*

      I really liked this question, and am glad to hear of parents whose main concern post-transition is how to be supportive and thoughtful. <3

      I also like how talking to coworkers about one's child transitioned normalizes the existence of trans people… but without making trans folks do the heavy bucket lifting.

    7. linus*

      i have a ton of friends who have learned they are trans over the course of our friendship, and i address this with friends-of-friends and my parents by referring to them in conversation as “[name], the artist formerly known as [deadname].” being extremely straightforward in the first interaction following a coming-out is generally fine.

      1. Random Dice*

        I also have a ton of friends who have gender transitioned of one kind or another (genderqueer, nonbinary, trans, whatever). I suspect it’s a combo of living in a liberal state, being a giant nerd, and being neurodiverse (we’re much more likely to reject inapplicable social constructs).

        My family tends to come to me for advice, because they don’t want to be rude or disrespectful to the trans/ genderqueer teacher at school, say, and they’re terrified that they’ll say something wrong.

        But sadly there is so much truly vile transphobia out there, that transitioning folks tend to recognize a sincere attempt to respectfully navigate a transition, even if it’s awkward.

        Which is why I love posts like this where we can share good practices, and all figure out how to be kind and respectful, and maybe skip over the awkward.

        1. Sorcyress*

          Nonbinary high school teacher here and HUGE YES, especially about your third paragraph. I actually love hearing “Miss…I mean, Mx” from my students, because even though they’re making a mistake, they’re clearly recognizing and correcting themselves in the moment, and that shows a level of respect and committment to trying to get it right that I really value!

          (for added context, I teach exclusively English learners, and so I don’t tend to police what the students call me –I get Miss, Mr, Mx, Teacher, and Profe in pretty equal measure and I’m okay with that. Coworkers absolutely must refer to me as Mx though –because if you’re willing to misgender the staff member who has the same apparent power as you, what are you willing to say to/about our trans and nonbinary students?)


    8. Beth*

      It’s not quite dead-naming…or at least, not usually?

      If you’re talking to someone who knows Sam but isn’t up-to-date on their name change, then it’s absolutely legit to say something like “I have plans with Sam–you might know him as Sue, FYI on the name change–on Saturday.” That’s not dead-naming; that’s actually preventing a mutual acquaintance from accidentally dead-naming him out of ignorance. (This kind of conversation usually happens when Sam isn’t present to hear it, FYI–if Sam is in the room, there’s no need for it, you can just say “I’m here with my friend Sam, I think you met at my birthday party, he’s over there in the plaid flannel?” and let people connect the dots themselves.)

      If you’re talking to a total stranger who you’re introducing to Sam for the first time, “This is Sam–he used to go by Sue, isn’t that interesting?” is absolutely dead-naming and is not right. But if you’ve thought even once about the impact of dead-naming, I doubt you were planning on doing that :)

    9. learnedthehardway*

      Well, the OP has to identify that she is speaking about the same individual, and has to make it clear who that person is. I don’t know how the OP does this without saying that FormerlySue is now PresentlySam.

      It would be pretty confusing, otherwise.

      1. amoeba*

        Last name/identity of parents might be an easy option, but if that doesn’t work, yeah, I think it makes more sense to find out once than to risk misgendering/deadnaming the person in question later on because you didn’t realise it was them!

    10. AnonForThis*

      For a first communication from a parent with multiple children, it may be necessary for clarity. But it’s mostly up to the child if the child is able to communicate a preference.

      My daughter changed her gender before she chose a new name, so we had a gradual process where first people at school and family got to practice new pronouns but kept using her (stereotypically male name). Her new name got established more gradually because of it, so we never had one discussion.

      She’s now absolutely locked into her new name, though, and so are most of her family and classmates.

      This did lead to her attempting to correct her class list this year; she had to be introduced to the new child with her dead name starting, and be pointed to her current name further down the list alphabetically.

  12. Napster*

    After reading only the headline, my response was “uh, no. WTF is wrong with you?”

    No change after reading the rest of the letter. OP #1, you are a horrible person. Seriously, WTF is wrong with you?

  13. Honey Badger just don't care*

    My boss and I once interviewed a woman who was 8 months pregnant at the time. We gave the thumbs up on the hire and I went about making onboarding plans. I mentioned to him that we’d need to accommodate her maternity leave in about a month or so and he just looked stunned and said ‘what do you mean?’. Dude….the woman was practically ready to give birth on the conference room table when we interviewed her! How did you not notice? He did not notice until I told him. His response? Oh, ok! What do we need to do then? She was a great employee who was with us for several years. If she’d applied with whomever OP1 is, they would have lost out on a great employee.

    1. BubbleTea*

      Not precisely the same, but one of my high school teachers didn’t publicly acknowledge her pregnancy until she was going on leave. She told our class “Such and such will be covering for me starting next week and I’ll be back next spring” or whatever it was, and one of the boys in the class asked “wait, where are you going?” It was very funny because she was petite and her stomach entered the room before her, it was one of the most visible pregnancies I’ve ever seen. She just wordlessly pointed at her bump and raised her eyebrows.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        Having had a high school teacher with a huge bump (and tiny ankles) who looked that way for all 3 years I was there, it’s not a given. Some people are just shaped like that.

    2. KC*

      Honestly, good for him! It is so awful to assume someone is pregnant when they are not, or to assume that because someone looks pregnant that the pregnancy is viable. I have seen both situations and it is incredibly awkward. My personal rule is that unless they are crowning before my very eyes, I assume they are not pregnant until I’m told otherwise and it’s worked fine so far!

  14. Sage*

    OP #1 – Pregnant employee
    I have no plans of becoming pregnant, but if I learned that my employer fired or didn’t hire someone because they where pregnant, I would avoid taking any personal issues I needed help with, other health issues. I would become worried that I would become the targed of other forms of sexism.

    On the contrary I have witnessed instances where pregnant coworkes (or ones with pregnant wifes) where treated fairly, and it has given me a certain sensation of security.

    Hope that helps to realize that the way you treat people does have an impact on morale.

    1. Clown Eradicator*

      I’m currently in the process of job searching (and actually, right now waiting on a hopeful call back after a second interview couple of weeks ago) because a friend/former cw of mine was looking into going to get a higher degree, the company was going to pay for it, then changed the stipulations at the last minute because “She’s getting married and will be focusing on settling down to have a family.” A male coworker who got married a week before didn’t understand why she was leaving…

    2. Sedna*

      Yeah, I will more than likely never be pregnant. I would still absolutely steer clear of any manager or company who treated pregnant people this poorly. It’s a real warning sign that they won’t care about any other needs outside work – particularly if you aren’t a cis guy.

    3. amoeba*

      Yeah, either other forms of sexism or other forms of discrimination, e.g., leave for caring for a family member, sickness…

  15. JR*

    I am strongly reminded of the sign my 7th grade teacher had hanging over the blackboard.

    You have choices. Choices have consequences.

    You absolutely can make the choice to fire a pregnant person. You just need to be prepared for the consequences of that choice. (Hint: the consequences are Not Good in this case)

  16. Serenity*

    At my mostly-female workplace, within the last 10 years a female supervisor hired a visibly pregnant woman who was known to our org and incredibly competent. In a place with a lot of turnover, she is still here, and outstanding. We knew of her work because she worked at a parallel organization and had several specific kinds of trainings/competencies we always need.

    At the time, I (F) listened to two of my male coworkers discuss (in front of me!) how they definitely would not have hired her because she was pregnant. I was fuming, but not in any kind of supervisory role, and they had both been there for years longer than I had (they had much more capital than me at that point). This crap burns me up.

  17. Richard Hershberger*

    LW3: I went through the same process over the past year. Like the LW, it was the name issue that took me past the initial privacy reflex. How to respond to a polite, and even sincere, inquiry “How is [X] doing?” when X is now Y? The most frequent reaction to the news was wondering how I was dealing with it. The one non-relative I felt had standing to have this discussion was my pastor, who offered counseling. She had standing both as my pastor and herself having a trans child. I did not need it. It took a while to process, and I still miss my daughter, but it turns out I like my son, and he is happier now. So that is a win. I have not gotten any “this is an abomination” pushback, either within my church (it isn’t that sort of church) or outside it. I suspect a few people of sitting on their hands and not saying what they were thinking, but they at least have the decency to keep their mouth shut.

  18. Cherry Blossom*

    For OP#3, with bringing up your trans child to your coworkers: Have that conversation with your child first!

    Some trans people will want to be out any and everywhere! Some trans people want to be more careful about who they come out to, especially in more conservative/openly anti-trans regions. In my own circles, it’s not uncommon for queer people to be “out at X, closeted at Y”, with Home, Work, and School inserted interchangeably at X and Y. (I am out at home, and closeted at work, for example). This is your child’s identity, and they should be taking the charge on who knows and when.

    One thing that drives me bonkers whenever I see it: Please please PLEASE do not use anything along the lines of “Sam is now Sue.” NEVER use their deadname; there’s so many other ways to let people know without bringing up something the person in question clearly wants to put behind them. “My middle child goes by Sue now” does the same job without bringing up something painful for the trans people in your life.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      The “out at X, closeted at Y” can be tricky! My brother is a teacher, and at his school each kid’s file has up to three sets of pronouns – to use at school, to use with Parent X, to use with Parent Y (since some kids will be out to Mom but not Dad, for instance). We’re in a very liberal area with a fair amount of immigration from more conservative countries, so it’s more common around here for people to be out EXCEPT at home.

  19. SJJ*

    I must admit the chant of “LANA GOT CONED! LANA GOT CONED!” popped into my head after reading Alison’s response to OP#1.

  20. BellyButton*

    It all makes me so angry. Women are punished for getting pregnant, for taking any time off, for not disclosing their pregnancy, for needing to pump. UGGG. If OP1 is in the US mat leaves are so stupidly short, especially for someone who has been at the company such a short time. Is 6-8 weeks really going to matter??

      1. Walmartian no more*

        Would this hiring manager be this upset if someone (aka a man) was having major surgery and was going to be out for 6-8 weeks for recovery? I would suspect the answer is no.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I don’t know, I’m just imagining the hissy fit LW would throw if they found out an employee had cancer and would need to take a lot of extended time off for the next X number of months/years.

    1. Christmas Carol*

      And we’re also punished if for whatever reason we fail to fulfil our God given purposes as wives and mothers.

  21. HonorBox*

    OP2 – I’m wondering two things:
    1. Do you want/need to rent space to them again? If the answer is no to either, or both, of those questions, you can probably choose not to, right? If they were bad “guests” you don’t have to bend over backward to let them back in.
    2. As Alison said, because they asked, you have an open door to be specific. Be kind when being specific, as it may be someone who wasn’t associated with the previous use. But be specific. And then hold them to what your agreement specifies. Check on the space as they leave and point out anything that needs to be cleaned up. If they’re to vacate the space by a specific time, show up and remind them of that. And you could also put some sort of penalty charges (or an up front deposit) into your agreement so that you have some sort of recourse if / when it happens again with this client or another.

  22. B*

    Defense employment lawyers: [internal screaming]
    Plaintiff employment lawyers: [Birdman rubbing hands gif]

  23. Sssssssssssssss*

    It’s sad how this attitude still persists.

    I work for a union with unionized staff. My pregnant coworker wanted to apply for a recent job opening (which would be a promotion for her) and her odds of being interviewed first are good since where we are, seniority is King. (The rumour mill will quickly start to predict who will apply and ppl will tell you if they did apply or plan to apply, and based on that, you can get an idea about your odds for an interview.)

    And she said to me, sincerely, “They won’t consider me because I’m leaving in March for the baby.” (and we’re in Canada so she would be gone a minimum a year). I still can’t believe I had to remind her that for a permanent position, the pregnancy could not be taken into account and could not be held against her if she is otherwise qualified for the role.

    She still might not win the job due to other issues (failed testing, failed interview, not qualified, not a good match) but the pregnancy should not be a consideration.

  24. Chili Heeler*

    I hope OP1 is outside the US, in a state with parental leave laws, or at a company with parental leave policies beyond FMLA. The employee won’t be eligible for FMLA yet.

  25. workworkwork*

    Wow, OP 1 take a breath. First of all, you hired her because she was the best person for the job. Her pregnancy doesn’t change that. Yes, it might be difficult to cover her job while she’s on leave, but there are any number of things that could cause a person to be out early in their job, and you would figure it out, wouldn’t you? And, given your question, you can see why women don’t disclose pregnancies and why the federal government had to pass laws to ensure that pregnant women don’t lose their jobs!

    OK, let’s go over the legals.
    1. It is against the law to fire her because she’s pregnant.
    2. Federal law does not require you to provide her with any FMLA unless she has been there 12 months. You can limit her leave to whatever she has available at the time.
    3 State law and your own company policies might require you to provide leave.

    My strong suggestion is that you work with her as much as you can to give her the leave she needs. You invested a lot of time and money to hire her. Don’t make the mistake of letting your emotions lead you into making poor decisions. I bet you would work with someone who broke their leg, or whose spouse had a car accident—why is this any different? Stuff can happen at any time. Figure it out and don’t be a you- know-what about it.

    1. Mt*

      this is the biggest concern. some states require you to provide the same flexibility/benifits to anyone with any medical condition(even if they injure themselves outside of work) that you may offer to women who are pregnant.

      if this company would be setting precedent with any expanded benefits. it’s a nightmare tightrope to walk.

    2. Worldwalker*

      Germane to recent (probably since the letter was originally run) conditions: The hypothetical male employee could get Covid, spend time in the hospital, and end up with Long Covid for months. How would the LW react to that? Fire him? Given their apparent heart of ice, they might.

      If the LW has a morale problem, they should start looking for the cause in the nearest mirror.

  26. rollyex*

    #2 “My colleague suggested that I hint at the issue by saying that we’ve equipped the space with bigger garbage cans.”

    I just put my head in my hands. This is such a pathetic approach. They asked for info. Give it.

    1. pally*

      Yes- be straight with them.

      What are they afraid of? Alienating a group they’d rather not rent the space to again?

      I bet, that the reason for the inquiry is that they know they did not do as they should in regard to how they left the space. They were hoping they might get back into their good graces by finding out what they need to do in order to rent the space again.

      1. Grim*

        Agreed, this is one of the many situations where a clear and direct communication of what is expected is actually a much kinder approach than softening the message to the point of incomprehensibility. I’m reasonably good at picking up on subtext, but if I was given the message about the space now having bigger trash bins, I think I’d just skim right over it, rather than making the leap to any specific action that might be required of me. Like, glad to hear it, but what’s that got to do with me?

    2. Hrodvitnir*

      Yes. Like, I get frustrated at people online acting like being direct is both easy and without consequence, but this situation… what? My god, they are literally asking, what is wrong with you (colleague)?

  27. Long-time Trans Man*


    On behalf of your son, I want to thank you for being so welcoming and open in a way that let’s your child be open about who he is.

    My mother did not accept my transition. She refused to go to my graduate school graduation because I was graduating as a man. I had to shave if I was going to see her in person. She died 12 years after I transitioned and never accepted me for who I am.

    1. Serenity*

      I know it’s not remotely the same, but I’m a mom, and I’m incredibly proud of you for being your true self and for completing that degree. Happy (belated) graduation! Here’s a and to celebrate!

      1. Serenity*

        That was a bracketed “graduation hug” and bracketed “graduation party horn” that got cut out of the post. Lol

      2. Silver Robin*

        Just want to drop a mention of Stand In Pride, which is a nonprofit that connects people willing to be “stand ins” to queer folks whose family members who refuse to actually act like family. Your comment reminded me of that, so thought I might share.

        1. Lily*

          After your comment I went directly to the Stand In Pride website.
          Beautiful! Goosebumps!
          I am so happy to learn of this organization!

  28. BellyButton*

    About 7 yrs ago at the company I was at, the head of sales was retiring and the exec team was having discussions on who would replace him. The most qualified, experienced, and amazing senior sales leader was a woman. She was hands down the best and right choice. I remember hearing three executives discussing– “yeah, but she just got married. You know she is going to want to have kids soon.” I called them out on it immediately, but JFC. A woman isn’t even pregnant and she is being punished for potentially getting pregnant sometime in the future.

    1. ampersand*

      But really it’s more than that—it’s being punished for having a uterus in the first place. She may never want to use said uterus! Just having one is a liability, ugh.

    2. Eleanor*

      I was recently interviewing right around the time I got married this past summer. One place I was interviewing with asked for me to schedule a follow-up interview “within the next 2-3 weeks”. They sent the email the day before I was taking a week off from work to get married and celebrate my wedding.

      Anyway, I sent my availablility for them 2-3 week out, deciding that I didn’t want to worry about interveiw stuff around my wedding. They emailed back asking if I had anything sooner. I was going to tell them no with the explanation I was getting married, and my now-husband told me not to tell them that for the exact reason mentioned: They may think, “Oh, so she’ll get pregnant soon. Better not hire her.” I hate that this is a thing, especially since I feel like I came off extra difficult in my scheduling, even though I had a valid reason for it!

  29. The other Kate*

    When I was pregnant at the age of 36, my employer said to me, “Gee, we employ less than 15 people – maybe I should fire you.” Supposedly he was joking. I’m 65 now and darling daughter is 28. It still angers me when I thin about it.

  30. Just curious*

    I have a question regarding a similar situation to #1. My employer was hiring a temporary (contract) sub to take the place of an employee going on maternity leave. They went through the process, hired a person and on her first day we found out she was pregnant and due the same time as the employee she was to sub for. I’m not sure how they handled it but she didn’t return the next day. This was 25 years ago. Is this situation different in the sense that this person was hired to do a specific job but would be unable to fulfill the requirements of the job?

    1. AngryOctopus*

      If I am specifically hired to cover a time period from A to B, and then I cannot cover that time period, I am not performing the job as agreed to. I was hired to cover a maternity leave, and they were very specific about the date I needed to start in order to overlap with the pregnant woman. If I had called before that first day and said “actually I have scheduled surgery starting at A, and will be out for 3 weeks”, they’d be within their rights to fire me, because I am not actually performing the job I was hired for.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      To me (and I am a woman) yes. Temp workers are inherently different than permanent. If the worker was temporarily being hired specifically to cover a certain time period and they could not then that wouldn’t be a suitable temp. It would be the same answer if they were scheduled to have open heart surgery or taking a months vacation during that time period.

      They weren’t not hiring her because she was pregnant, they were not hiring her because she could not fulfill the coverage need.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Exactly. It’s akin to interviewing someone as a temp seasonal worker, and then having that person say “okay this seems great, but I can’t work [half the dates] because of holiday obligations!”. Well then I can’t hire you because I need you specifically in this seasonal context that is the holiday period.

    3. SoloKid*

      I also wonder how this might affect a hire where there is a requirement to staff an event on X date, where X date is during an undisclosed leave.

      1. ClaireW*

        I think you’d be best being really open about that required date at the hiring stage. Anything could happen, you could hire someone who’s getting married on that date or has a once-in-a-lifetime family holiday planned or has surgery that they’ve been waiting for… if you specifically need someone on a specific date, zero flexibility, then be open about it so that people who won’t be available on that won’t put themselves forward.

    4. Ann*

      I don’t know what the laws were back then – the boss would probably want to talk to a lawyer first – but if she committed to covering specific dates in the interview that she could not possibly cover, she was lying in the interview and could be fired for that.

  31. PickleJuice*

    Oh this makes me angry! I feel like the OP is saying “I feel lied to because I wasn’t given the information I needed to dicriminate against something that inconveniences me”

    1. Other Alice*

      Right?? When you act unreasonably, you relinquish the right to transparency from people. See also bosses who flip out when employees resign and then wonder why employees are not giving more notice.

  32. Tammy 2*

    Given notice periods and the length of time it takes to make hiring decisions, I bet this employee was at or barely past the stage where they’d want to tell anyone about a pregnancy when they applied for this job.

  33. Ray B Purchase*

    LW 4 — one of the aspects of my employer that got me to accept their offer, as opposed to some more prestigious orgs I interviewed with, was how specific my interviewers were about schedule flexibility to allow for work life balance! They had recent actual examples locked and loaded detailing how Bobby usually works from home every Friday over winter because he goes skiing in Colorado every weekend, or Jonathan leaves early every Tuesday for his kids’ soccer games, or Annabeth doesn’t live in the same city as our office, so she’s usually remote but comes into the office every other Wednesday.

    So it wasn’t just hearing them say “Your life is so much more than just your work life and it’s important to us that you get to do the things you want to do in your personal life too,” but they also showed me exactly how they were enacting that culture.

  34. SusieQQ*

    Oh wow. There’s just so much wrong here, on both a human and professional level.

    I really hope the woman in question ends up with a boss who will be more supportive of her.

  35. Sssssssssssssss*

    Eons ago, my friend was pregnant and tragically lost her baby. Her employer was already unhappy she was pregnant (and leave was only six months then) but they knew they could not fire her while pregnant.

    Then she lost the baby. And then she was fired (not sure what reason was given). She knew it was because of the pregnancy and she went to a lawyer but because she was no longer pregnant, they said there was little they could do.

    Fine, she said. She called up her friend at Revenue Quebec, and informed them that there were shady accounting practices going on at her old employer (and this was not a lie). They were nicely audited.

    (She went on to have two healthy baby girls.)

    1. Roja*

      Geez, if getting fired for being pregnant isn’t bad enough already, getting fired for being pregnant when you’ve already lost the baby is horrific. I don’t understand how people do things like that and still sleep at night.

  36. Flossy*

    Not that it makes #1 okay by any means, but I know where I work women often take up to a year of leave when they have a child (I don’t know how much of that is paid, not that it’s my business). Maybe LW1 is having a similar thing?

    1. ClaireW*

      In lots of countries that’s the standard amount of maternity leave and we still don’t allow employers to discriminate against women based on that.

    2. Ann*

      Maybe, though very unlikely if this is the US. And I assume there are also anti-discrimination laws.
      I’m curious though, how do companies cope with an employee being out for a year? Are there pools of temps looking for one-year gigs? Do bosses just expect less productivity, so other coworkers have room in their schedule to cover for the absent ones? Even if OP is in Europe or Canada, they can probably do whatever others in their situation do…

      1. Kabocha Mocha*

        Yes, there are pools of people who want one year gigs. It’s considered a good way to break into a new role.

  37. I should really pick a name*

    One way to approach this would be to talk about your child the way you normally would.

    You: “Sam has his piano recital this weekend!”
    Coworker: “Oh, I didn’t know you had another child”
    You: “It’s the same kid, he’s changed his name to Sam”

    Personally, I think this approach helps to normalize things a bit more than proactively sending out some kind of announcement.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Ask the kid! There’s some benefit to being able to have one announcement and be done with it vs continually being deadnamed and needing to say “No, my name is Sam now” dozens of times. Different people will prefer different approaches.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Good to ask the kid anyway, but my read of the situation is that the coworkers are aware of each others families, but wouldn’t be communicating with them directly.

  38. not bitter, just sour*

    LW4: high standards and lower pay might also turn away candidates more than good benefits but I suppose not everyone is concerned about getting the highest salary possible.

  39. Amy K*

    LOVE your response to the last question about how to highlight the tangible benefits of a flexible workplace. I don’t have kids but I have a chronic vestibular condition that’s exacerbated by working too many hours in front of a computer. I intentionally moved from a very high stress 50+ hour week job to a very flexible .8 (32 hours per week job) that allows me to stay on top of my PT and walking at lunch etc

    I’m a great employee (he-he) who is willing to take lower salary for a role that allows me to prioritize my health!!

    1. Mo*

      My one note to LW4 would be to make it clear if this flexibility is open to everyone, or only parents. It’s a truism that “family friendly” workplaces are too often terrible places to work for people who aren’t parents (especially support staff). I’ve worked more than one place where there were very toxic expectations on the workloads childfree people were expected to shoulder. This, combined with zero boundaries on the demands parents working from home were allowed to make on support staff, has made me wary of applying for jobs of any place that advertises themselves as “family friendly.” (Example here would be multiple people daily emailing long documents after 4:30 each day that needed to be printed out to go out in the 5pm mail or FedEx pickups. Needless to say it was not only printing out, but printing out labels, getting them weighed and logged into our accounting system. Pushing for a daily deadline was seen as not supporting parents.)

      Sorry to rant, but too many people don’t realize that family-friendly and work-life balance are red flags for some quality job-hunters.

      1. Amy K*

        Agreed! That was a big part of the issue at my last job, my counterpart was way underperforming but because she had 3 kids and was “popular” they always let her slack.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      If it’s the US, it’s at will. So there is no contract. They can fire you because they want to, unless the reason is bias against a protected class.
      Yes, the federal government had to get involved to over rule people’s innate lack of humanity and make pregnancy a protected class, because companies would summarily fire long time employees who were pregnant, much less hire pregnant women.

      This is not to put pregnancy above every other marginalized group.

      This is my own realization as I type that pregnancy is marginalized. There are people like OP who think, “why are these people here?” They think the people who make people are less-than people.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      To be fair, we only know how the LW feels about the situation, not their company.

  40. Chirpy*

    The awkward feedback to a client: I once worked at a place where a group absolutely trashed the place over a weekend. The next year, they tried rent the space again, and we flat out told them no. It had taken the cleaners twice as long as usual, and the group hadn’t let staff in the building while they were there (normally, staff checks on the groups to make sure they don’t need anything, or take out trash).

    Another group had some kids in the group graffiti the area. They were told that they had to take care of the graffiti or they would not be allowed back, which they eventually did.

  41. IT Director Extraordinaire*

    I had a manager ask me just a few years ago something similar to this, although in that case the candidate was 7 months along and did tell him during the interview. I reminded him that it had no bearing on her qualifications and to hire her if she was the best candidate/fit. She ended up being a great member of our team for several years.

  42. Spiders Everywhere*

    For #4, letting people know about the nonmonetary benefits of the positions is a good idea, but they need to recognize that if the pay is average they’re going to get average candidates, and if the pay is below average for what the candidates could get elsewhere they’re lucky to get even that.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Bingo. I know pay wasnt in OP’s control but if all you are attracting is lower level candidates than what you need – then you need to either offer the compensation that will attract the level candidate you need or you need to adjust your expectations that you will have the lower level candidates. They say they’re competitive salary’s but clearly they arent.

      I work in government and I can’t tell you how many times certain positions go unfilled waiting for that unicorn employee who is willing to get paid less than they’re worth. The justification is always “but we have great benefits and work/life” – which is true but there’s just not people queuing up to be significantly underpaid.

      1. Spiders Everywhere*

        It’s amazing how people who are perfectly capable of understanding very basic concepts like “you get what you pay for” suddenly loose that ability when what they’re purchasing is employee labor!

        1. Bear Expert*

          I would like a brand new Maserati, but I want to pay $10,000. I’ll be really nice about it.

          You can get some leeway on market rates by compensating with really good perks and flexibility. Being able to always make it to my favorite yoga class/my kid’s soccer practice/whatever is worth something to me, and may be worth more or less to different people. Some of the people its worth a lot to may have the skills you’re looking for.

          But you’re narrowing your hiring pool to plan to pay with flexibility rather than cash, and you need to be prepared for that. Everyone needs money, not everyone needs a flexible schedule. Are there places you can widen your pool? If this is for a highly skilled position with lots of experience, can you have it be fully remote and look for someone literally anywhere? And the question about how to talk about it so people see it as part of the compensation and you attract candidates who will value that is real.

          And once they are in place, understand that this is part of their compensation and they will treat you taking away this flexibility the same way they would treat you lowering their salary.

  43. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    I remember this letter and thinking then of the reply Dear Prudence once gave:

    I encourage you to reread it and to ask yourself that time-honored question, “Do I sound like a villain in a Reese Witherspoon movie?”

  44. ampersand*

    And in today’s edition of “This Is Exactly The Reason This Law Exists”…

    Also, Alison’s answer is exceedingly kind.

  45. pregs*

    I didn’t yet know I was pregnant when I accepted my current role, and found out during the few weeks off I planned between jobs. Have been relieved to see how people have handled it as I’ve announced (I’m at a fairly progressive tech company, so this wasn’t a huge surprise but is still comforting), and things like letter #1 make me SO uneasy.

  46. Funfetti*

    OP #2
    I manage/rent event spaces for a living – basically that’s what a Security Deposit is for. It holds the client accountable for them to be good in order to get it refunded and a way for you to get some money if there are any issues. In your cases, you could have docked for both a clean up fee and staying an extra hour than they booked.

    Now that all being said, depending on the client and how nice/easy they’ve been to work with I will sometimes let that stuff slide the first time and the second time I enforce it. But this also all needs to be in a contract with them as well. I also hope you’re requiring liability insurance since you’re allowing them to use the space without your being present (reminder – the insurance is protecting from any acts of negligence they may cause so if something goes wrong when they’re there, then they’re at fault).

    Final nugget – I always update my contracts to reflect new rules to be broken because as a former colleague said one “they always build a better idiot” Like I had to add a glitter fee after one event because even though I said they were responsible for any messes, they didn’t factor in glitter and it was the WORST to get ride of. Now I have a line that says, “Absolutely no glitter” and “clean up fee STARTS AT $500”. People will really push the limit if you don’t explicitly say what they can/cannot do and they’ll try to play lawyer with you.

  47. AA*

    Not justifying the LW’s thoughts in the pregnancy question but I understand the frustration.

    My organization was able to finally bring someone on after an almost year long search. Within 2 weeks, they left on parental leave for 3+ months (as my organization allows). As a result of the workload, another colleague left for a lateral position, making it even more difficult for the rest of us.

    I’m glad employment law is what it is so the decision is out of the organization’s hands but it does create a lot of difficulty in the near term for other employees who have to pick up the slack.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      “I’m glad employment law is what it is so the decision is out of the organization’s hands but it does create a lot of difficulty in the near term for other employees who have to pick up the slack.”

      What causes the difficulty is the business not being able to sustain an employees extended absence whether its pregnancy or otherwise. It’s a management problem.

      A position that’s been vacant for a year causing workload issues is the problem – it wasn’t the 3 extra months.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Exactly. If the position is so niche it takes a year plus to fill, then the person hired, even if they go on parental leave, is the right choice.

        If the position wasn’t filled due to inertia or management trying to save a buck, it makes sense that finally getting help and then having it yanked away again would drive people away instead of people willing to wait it out until the new person returns.

      2. Kell*

        Yep, I’ve learned to start channeling these frustrations at the company that hasn’t planned properly or even at our capitalistic society as a whole, rather than at the specific person that is just trying to live their life. I worked at a company that really increased the amount of PTO, sick, and maternity leave they offered while I was working there, but for years afterwards refused to staff adequately to cover these leaves (and we worked with kids, where legal staff:student ratios were involved). It’s really easy to feel like “Ugh, Jane is on vacation AGAIN” when you’re the one stuck covering Jane’s workload, but if she’s just using her allotted time, it’s the company’s fault for not planning ahead and hiring enough staff that someone taking time off doesn’t feel like a burden to others.

    2. SpaceySteph*

      “pick up the slack” that your management left slacking for most of a year not that this one poor employee left for 3 months to have a baby. This is problematic hiring process and bad management, not on one person having a personal life.

      Also how long was it from when they posted the job this person applied to? They may not have even been pregnant when they applied, if it took most of a year. Were they supposed to put their whole life on hold until the application process was over?

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I have to wonder how understaffed and what kind of shoestring budget places are run on, when one less person is considered any kind of a wrench in the machine. I work for the famously underfunded education sector, and if people who have to bring their own pens and paper to work can do maternity leave seamlessly, than anyone can. My boss started her maternity before the summer, (and she usually does a lot, a LOT of work during the summer). She’s the SENco so she did the lion’s share of all our SEN work – responsible for hundreds of kids who have complex needs and she runs the largest department in a huge school. Parents of the kids who have access arrangements were very nervous because they know how fundamental her job is to their kid’s success. This is the UK so we won’t see her until next September, so how on earth are we coping? Well, we had advance notice because it’s maternity leave, unlike emergency leave, so we pulled our heads out the ground and planned for it. Her deputy was promoted short term into the role; she’s doing amazingly well. Obviously we didn’t just make one person responsible for two jobs though! Another teacher was promoted short term for the assistant SENco job; she’s also rocking it. Her previous teacher’s role is being taken on my someone else in the department and there’s two new teachers hired; one permanently and one temporarily as a training position. I really scratch my head when the plan is “We did the same work with less people because no one is allowed to have life stuff happen usually. Hope no one gets sick!”

      1. Ann*

        Sometimes it’s not about budget. Just very hard to hire someone with the right skills. I see a lot of this in my industry. We’re all stressed and stretched because it takes forever to hire someone qualified. And when we do hire someone, another person leaves – we’ve had more departures in the last two years than I’ve ever seen (probably a mix of burnout and not wanting to live in this area any more). We’re taking on work from competitors that went under. And the number of regulations we have to comply with keeps increasing so it takes more and more staff to cover each project. It’s a mess.

  48. Veryanon*

    I still think about how my mom, who was pregnant with my youngest sister in 1980, was told by her boss that she could only take off the 6 weeks that disability covered after my sister’s birth, and if she didn’t return to work on the dot at 6 weeks, she’d lose her job. And she was a state government employee protected by a pretty strong union! Rather than try to fight this through the union and go through all that hassle, she returned to work at 6 weeks postpartum. She did not have a choice as she needed her job; she carried the medical insurance for all of us.
    Just when you think that maybe we’ve made some progress in the last 40+ years, you see a letter like this. :(

  49. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, in a way, your employee did you a favour. It would certainly be unethical and I think in some jurisdictions, illegal, for you to take the fact she is pregnant into account when deciding whether to hire her or not. So her telling you wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) have changed anything anyway.

    And it meant that if you hadn’t hired her, you wouldn’t have had to worry, “yikes, will this look like I am discriminating against her for being pregnant?”

    She absolutely did the right thing by not telling you, both because your letter implies you might not have hired her had she told you and because even assuming you wouldn’t disciminate against her, it’s hard to be entirely fair once you know something like that. There’s always the, “am I subconsciously trying to convince myself the other candidate is better because I don’t want to pay a temp while she is on maternity leave?” or alternatively, “am I favouring her because I don’t want to be seen as somebody who’d discriminate against a pregnant candidate?”

  50. Head sheep counter*

    I think modern life makes being an employer very interesting. On the one hand, presumably one is hiring because you need a position filled. On the other, you might wish to support a decent leave policy for staff for life events. These two desires can… hit conflict, depends on the structure of the business. For a small office/business, hiring a person who barely gets through learning their new role before they need an extended leave would be a wildly different burden than for a large office/business. There are no guarantees when one is on either side of the desk for hiring. You could bring in someone who’s a great fit but that timing is a challenge. Or you could bring in someone who isn’t a great fit. Its a gamble.

    I have some empathy on the pregnancy gamble as in addition to the are they a fit or not discussion, there is no way to know if the staff person is coming back after leave. But the pregnant person also has no way to know if you are fair and reasonable.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      What are you classifying as “modern” though? Because this has been the law in the US for 45 years.

      1. Head sheep counter*

        Well… in the US we still aren’t on the long leaves for personal reasons train. Many places have very basic (the minimum) policies. So modern in terms of seeing that as not ideal… if all you are accommodating is the minimum… then basically you have a new staff person out about the amount of time it would take to replace them (depending on your location and desirability of your job).

    2. Mill Miker*

      I think part of this is having to realize that “the minimum number of employees required for this business to succeed” is higher than where most employers would like it to be.

      I swear too many companies are doing the business equivalent of driving down the highway with 3 worn-out tires and the donut on the car, and claiming that replacing the tires is an unnecessary luxury. And then they get upset when another tire goes flat and they don’t have a spare.

      1. Head sheep counter*

        I think this really does contribute to the problem. Although defining minimum number in cyclical business must really be a pickle to figure out… and lots of businesses are cyclical. If only we could have our life changing events happen in whatever down time was also happening. :)

    3. Lainey L. L-C*

      “There is no way to know if the staff person is coming back after leave.”

      The way the economy has been (well since I’ve been an adult), yeah, you do know. They’re coming back. I don’t know many families that are single income families (unless they are single moms). A quick Google search seems to show it’s about 70 percent of moms are working. Your odds are pretty high that they’re coming back.

      1. Head sheep counter*

        I’ve seen it both ways… so its still a gamble (but everything in employment is). The mom may come back to work but may decide your business isn’t the one she wants to work at (eg hours/stress or whatever). I think the old saw about doing x so you can get benefits for y is still alive and well in the fears of some (and in a smaller number the realities of others).

    4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Anyone could get hit by a bus or inherit millions from their long-lost Great-Aunt Gertrude and be gone tomorrow. “There’s no way to know if they’ll be here in six months” is no reason to fire someone. It’s a reason to have more than one person capable of performing any given task.

      (Also, it is SUPER SEXIST to assume that women all want to be stay-at-home moms who won’t come back after having a kid. Parental leave was necessary but also REALLY BORING and I’m so glad my wife and I were able to trade off short chunks so I wasn’t gone more than 4 weeks at a time.)

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I’ve definitely seen parents decide not to come back after maternity, but it’s never been because of the kid, really. Valid choice when that happens but I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere were anyone was well off enough (I’m thinking of before the childcare crisis though). The few times it’s happened, it was because the place was a terrible place for a parent to work, and they just opted to go somewhere more family friendly and were parental leave wasn’t seen as this huge burden they need to repay anyway. The stand out occasion was a top performer who asked for a meeting on her first day back; she asked for more flexible hours and to go part time. They really easily could have accommodated it and it would have freed up money to pay for a trainee for her to develop. Instead there was this sense of umbrage from the dinosaurs that she was asking for anything instead of being grateful. She’d already had another job lined up, so seeing the kind of reaction she was getting, she handed in her notice that day.

      1. ClaireW*

        Yeah thee only other time I’ve seen women not go back to work after having a kid is if the cost of childcare would be higher than the woman’s pay – in which case the company could absolutely solve that by paying her a more livable wage.

  51. Justme, The OG*

    Short answer: No.

    Longer answer: If you want to be sued for discrimination, sure. Otherwise, no.

  52. fhqwhgads*

    This is why I’m not an advice columnist. Cuz my answer to the headline would be something like “hahaha. No.”

  53. Ann O'Nemity*

    OP #1 cannot fire the employee for being pregnant. However, I’m curious what happens when the employee needs to take leave and they aren’t legally protected by FMLA.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      I’ve been in that position – we adopted our son and the company only offered leave for birthing parents, and was too small (just barely) for FMLA to be required. I negotiated for leave, but I was a top performer and they’d rather lose me for eight weeks than for good. Plenty of people aren’t as fortunate.

    2. Epilogue*

      I was in that position and I got 3 days of unpaid leave while I was in the hospital and then negotiated to work remotely for a while. It was not great. On the plus side, they did hire me when I was 7 months pregnant so yay?

    3. Whomst*

      My understanding is that you can’t get fired for being pregnant, but you can get fired for needing more time off for medical stuff than you have accrued. Lovely little loophole there – keep them around while they’re pregnant and fire them for needing time to recover after giving birth. Perfectly legal.

  54. Emoo*

    I know the names in OP2’s letter are fake, but “A Boy Named Sue” would be an AMAZING transmasc memoir title.

    Also just adding in my hysteri-disgust at some who wrote in with their whole chest about wanting to fire a pregnant person.

  55. Dragonfly7*

    LW4’s flexiblity is something I would appreciate as someone with multiple chronic illnesses. I’ve reached the point where I could easily use up most of my sick leave for the year on routine appointments. To have the flexibility to leave for a couple hours for an appointment and make it up earlier or later and not always have to use sick leave would be wonderful.

  56. DivergentStitches*

    It is legit scary that there are STILL people in the position to hire who don’t know they can’t fire someone for being pregnant or for not disclosing in the hiring process.

  57. Saberise*

    #1 I work at a major university and the closest I saw that in the wild was when one of the PIs I support mentioned in passing that it was frustrating that after looking months for a post-doc (had to find them now days) he finally got someone hired to be told 2 weeks later they were pregnant would be going out on maternity. Being that he had funding and experiments to worry about he wasn’t please but not so much like he wouldn’t have hired her. More in the that sucks vein. That being said she chose to come back early and sent both that baby and her next one back to her home country for her parent to raise until they were old enough for school so she wasn’t even out that much.

  58. not that kind of Doctor*

    re: Q1, we had the exact thing happen: new hire disclosed her 5mo pregnancy after she was hired. We arranged coverage (as we had been doing anyway, before the role was filled) and everyone survived. She’s now been with us 2.5 years and is a strong contributor (and her kid is a cutie).

    I think a lot of ppl have the same knee-jerk reaction to the inconvenience, but they recognize it for the BS it is and say nothing.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      This right here. Its so short-sighted to consider firing a person over this. 3 months is such a blip on a hopefully long career. A year or 2 later you look back and it barely registers they were gone at all.

  59. no name this time*

    I will be out out on a limb with my comment on the first letter. This is why there is often unhapiness among those who have to deal with the fallout on other employees to fill in for a maternity leave. It may be well handled in other countrie, but here in the U.S., the way it is handled by many employers becomes a source of resentment from other employees. I am not saying that there should be no maternity leave or employers should not hire pregnant woman. I am saying that employers should not expect other employees to shoulder the conswquences of another employee’s absence.

    I did not see in the comments much about what usually happens in the U.S. for fellow employees when a colleague is on extended leave, whether maternity leave or for a serious illness. In my experience, there were no temporary replacements, just the absent person’s work piled onto someone else. Sr. Management viewed extended leaves under FMLA as a money saving opportunity and supervisors told to make do with what they have. Employees have so little paid leave time to begin with that the quickly go into unpaid status. The funds that woul have gone to them if they were working just went back into the budget. Temps were not hired and the staff picking up the slack barely got thanks, much less compensation for performing extra work.

    It’s very difficult when this happens to a hiring manager (who probably had to battle to be allowed to hire for the slot) to learn that the new hire to fill a hole/solve problems, lighten the workload, etc. will soon be absent herself. No support will come from upper management, only blame when something else goes wrong. Few companies pay to bring in a temp replacement or compensate those picking up the slack. It’s a great way to lay groundwork for a toxic workplace.

    I was hired by a company to improve a complex Federal compliance function that had tight deadlines across an organization that had locations in many states. I accomplished my goal and moved to another position but remained the backup to my replacement. When she went out on maternity leave, I was expected to do my job (including overnight travel!) and hers at the same time. Because her job had compliance deadlines, I often had to ignore my work to get hers done on time. I spent extra hours at the office (not allowed to WFH) catching up on my job and was dead tired by the time I got home. I only got help on my own job from my supervisor with her own heavy workload when something was about to be an emergency. I had to take a week of long-planned FMLA to care for my elderly mother; grandboss said she would do the compiance work while I was gone, but she did nothing, leaving me a mess to deal with on return. I then had a serious home emergency that I was barely able to handle because I was not allowed schedule flexibility to meet with contractors (really!), followed by a major, unsettling disaster in the region. I was stretched to the breaking point by the time the colleague returned. There was not even a thank you from management after my miserable summer. When I expressed my unhappiness with what had happened at work, I was the one who caught flack for not respecting the right to take maternity leave.

    1. Celeste*

      I get what you’re saying. A lot of people are acting like it’s no big deal when someone is gone for weeks, but it can really be a hardship. Yes, it’s absolutely a hardship an employer needs to deal with – the solution is not to try to avoid hiring pregnant people. But I don’t think acting like it doesn’t pose a problem for anyone is helpful for the reasons you say. Stuff often gets dumped on coworkers who get no additional compensation. That’s the reality of it, and not facing that reality means things can’t get fixed. Employers need to feel more pressure to deal with someone’s absence in a way that doesn’t hurt other employees, and they’re unlikely to feel that pressure if everyone is trying to act like this kind of leave is simple to accommodate.

      1. no name this time*

        What I was saying that, in the U.S. when an extended leave occurs and the employee is expected to return, most employers don’t use temporary replacements for that position because it is a cost saving to them. Instead, the work of that position is given to other employees on top of their regularly assigned tasks without any additional compensation, monetary award, extra paid leave days, or any other tangible show of appreciation.

        What I left out in my original response was my grandboss (the one who said she would take care of the time-sensitive work from the one on maternity leave’s position when I had to care for my mother but did none of it) dinged me later for not keeping up with the workload of two full-time positions. There are only so many balls you can juggle at once without having to grow another arm. It was my fault that another arm did not appear. (And yes, I did ask for help with the workload.)

  60. Have you had enough water today?*

    I don’t know where LW1 is from, but in my country it has been illegal to discriminate against someone due to pregnancy since the 1980s. I am kind of shocked this would even still be asked.

    LW3 – I will use whatever pronouns someone wants me to use, but I need to know what those are before I can use them. In spite of the very vocal bigots, I think most people are the same.

  61. Been there*

    I was hired while pregnant and not showing yet many years ago. My boss was nothing but amazing when he found out, as I experienced complications that caused me to take a leave very early on. In return he acquired an employee who worked her tail off and added real value to the business for many years. I still miss that man. people like the LW are the reason we have such laws in place. Shame on them.

  62. Lassiter*

    Years ago while conducting virtual interviews for out-of-state candidates, I was once asked by a hiring manager if they could ask the female candidates to stand up. I almost lost it…

  63. Coin Purse*

    I spent my career as an RN. 95% women, mostly young, out of school. The problem wasn’t maternity leaves (which were legendary in number)…the problem was a health care system that had no plan to cover those absences. And the failure wasn’t on the line manager, desperate to cover shifts….it was hospital administrators trying to nickel and dime staffing.

  64. Nonnie Moose*

    I’ve had the same debate with myself since my child transitioned. I don’t think anyone who I interact with at work is a raging transphobe, but I have heard enough passively transphobic stuff that I didn’t want to open that can of worms when I was already feeling vulnerable and weird. I support my trans kiddo 100%, but it was nervewracking, especially at first, knowing I had to equip myself to defend against any transphobia that might come her way.

    So I ended up deciding that most of the people I don’t work with very frequently haven’t been keeping too close track of the genders of my children, even when I did show them pictures of my “son” who had long flowing hair, and I could just say “my kid” or “my youngest” for a while and then shift over and probably nobody would even notice. Thus far that has held. I did tell 1 of 3 coworkers who I work with most closely and have the best relationships with, and swore him to secrecy. I think another of them might have figured it out, and the 3rd one said some things the other day that showed good fluency with gender-related topics, so I may discuss it if it comes up. A few months out I have acclimated much more and it doesn’t bother me to where I want so much to be able to talk about it.

    And I also have more directly challenged passively transphobic statements I have heard with “Actually, I have a trans family member, and ….” which feels like the right amount of disclosure while still protecting my kid’s privacy.

    Not saying others have to use this covert approach, just that it did work for me.

  65. Not Jane*

    One of my co-workers had a child who transitioned. It was a very difficult time for her as a mother. By talking with us it helped her to cope and accept it. That was a few years ago and now we all just talk about ‘her son’ like that’s always been the case.

  66. Heffalump*

    OP1, there was a letter a couple of years ago titled “My employee wasn’t respectful enough after the company messed up her paycheck.” (You could look it up.) Alison’s response goes for you too: You are very, very wrong about this situation, both as a manager and as a human.

  67. ItsComplicated*

    I am female, understand the law, and agree with it. But….

    I’ve never worked at any company that was adequately staffed. Hiring new employees is often a major fight and, in many cases, the justification that finally succeeds is some specific time-sensitive need. Maternity leave is not long enough to hire a leave replacement or justify getting someone else up to speed. Other people who are already really overloaded puck up essential, time-sensitive tasks and the rest waits for the person to return (yes, this happens in non-pregnancy situations too).

    I still remember how upset I was that, after months of working to get a new position opened so I didn’t have to perform two full time jobs we hired someone and then were told they’d be going on maternity leave 6 weeks later, right before the bulk of the work for the project that was used to justify their hiring had to happen. It was demoralizing and frustrating and almost did me in – instead of the promised relief my work increased.

    News flash – most companies staff as thinly as possible. Yes, they should do better, but they don’t. There should be coverage but there rarely is. Taking a vacation? Great, do all the work you missed plus the new work when you get back. Have a medical emergency? Take the time you need, then deal with the nasty backlog when you get back. It’s been like that for nearly everyone I know who isn’t in a few specific fields for my entire 30+ year career.

    OP1 is a jerk, but it’s natural for impacted other employees to resent the situation. They can do that while still agreeing hiring the pregnant person is both the right thing and the legally required thing to do.

    1. ClaireW*

      Those employees NEED to be resenting the company who are prioritising maximum profits over their own employees, rather than resenting the person who got the job for being a human being outside of that job. If someone was hired and then broke a leg or had a stroke or something I hope you wouldn’t resent them for that either. It is NEVER the fault of the employee that your company doesn’t care enough about you to have more than the bare minimum staffing levels.

    2. MillenialHR*

      It’s not the fault of the pregnant person – someone could have a heart attack and be out for months as well, or a car accident and again, be out for months. It’s the fault of the organization, not the person in the car accident, the person who is ill, or the person who is pregnant. Things happen, life happens, and the organization is responsible to support workers. If they are not, it’s probably not a good work environment in other ways as well.

  68. Burnt Too Many Times*

    So I spend three months on the job search, a month training you, and in four months or less you’re going to disappear for some inderminate period of time, and your work isn’t going to get done?

    And you /say/ you’ll be back, but what if you’re not? Do I start a potentially fruitless search now, or am I screwed until YOU decide what you want to do?

    This is why we find ways around that law.

    1. Me...Just Me*

      I’ll be honest. Yes. This. While in theory, it’s all good to hire a pregnant person; but there are real implications (and a whole lot of wasted time) for the business. The reason they want to hire someone is because there’s a job that needs to be done. Immediately. There’s probably a backlog and some overworked co-worker(s) who have been holding down the fort until help arrives. And, that help is now not only not arriving as planned, but also may not ever show up and so the timeline is now stretched out months and months to get help. Despite what folks think, businesses are in the business of … well, making money after delivering a product. If the product can’t be delivered because there’s no staff, that negatively impacts the business (and pay and benefits for the employees). Nice to say, “well tough titties”, but meanwhile the business suffers as do all the other employees. These other employees, who, by the very nature of the world we live in — are now going to be stressed and fall further behind. I’m sure those employees aren’t thinking, “Wow, it’s great the newly hired employee we’ve all be waiting for is going on maternity leave 3 months after being hired and *might* return to work 12 weeks later!” – that’s just not realistic. Blame the business. Blame the other employees. Whatever – but kindness for strangers doesn’t usually extend that far.

      Of course, I’m all for keeping the law on the books. That’s just good ethics/morals. But, I do understand the, “what the heck…!” response.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      And this is why you get sued :)

      You could go through the same process with someone else and they could break their leg, or get cancer, or need to care for a sick loved one. Are you truly going to fire them for that? If so, you have no business being in a position of power.

  69. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    @OP 1: there’s a better way to reduce your workforce by a person: you quit, and never take another management job again. There’s no way this is a one off bad idea from you; anyone who thinks this shouldn’t be in charge of anyone or anything. If you care about bringing justice to the world, do us all a favor and quit your job.

  70. MillenialHR*

    I am expecting and super early in my pregnancy, but if my boss decided to terminate my employment because I was pregnant and didn’t disclose it, I’d have a lawsuit so fast his head would spin! I’m so glad laws protect people from being treated this way – I am just as valuable now as I was before, just a little more tired (and honestly, a little happier and more constantly excited, which I think just makes me easier to work with!).

    1. JAnon*

      Yup. This is the situation I am in and I am so lucky that my boss has been nothing but happy for me and supportive. I think what a lot of people are missing when they may defend OP1 is that reacting to this in a positive way breeds more goodwill towards the employer and a better chance that employee comes back and stays long term. If I was being harassed about my pregnancy, I might find myself looking for a new job to go to after my leave.

  71. Meghan*

    I know these emails are anonymous for a reason but man do I wish Ask a Manager would Name and Shame JUST THIS ONCE. I’ve very rarely read something that made me says “What the £^(<“ so fast. Holy crow. HOW is this person a manager?

    Unfortunately I think she’s not eligible for FMLA so hopefully the company isn’t a sole proprietorship or this woman will still be out of a job or have to come back to work at a few days postpartum. This whole post is OOF.

  72. Matt*

    Let me respond to OP’s question with a question of my own- how badly do you want to get sued? Because as Alison pointed out, that’s what you should expect if you move forward with this.

    Govern yourself accordingly.

  73. Chad H.*

    >> Can I terminate her or legally do I have to keep her on?

    I love this. “Because I was denied my chance to illegally discriminate then, can I do it now?”

    No. Your employee deserves better.

  74. Employment lawyah*

    1) No, you can’t fire her. That’s illegal. She will sue you and win.

    2) Yes, it’s normal to be bummed about it. You just got the bad roll of the dice: It’s an expensive outcome for you (you need to train and employ her as if she wasn’t leaving; you may need to pay her during her leave; you will probably need to protect her job during leave; etc.) Moreover, you may find that her return-to-work is not especially predictable (she can change her mind about returning even if you hold open the job; she can also have medical issues which cause her to delay unexpectedly; she may also have accommodations; etc.)

    Our system puts all the risk on individual employers, which makes no sense. Once we agreed that pregnancy leave is a good thing for everyone, we should have spread the cost across society at large, or at least across all employers. There’s no good reason to have such broad differences across individual employers based on whose employee happens to get pregnant/sick/need accommodations/etc.

    But that’s politically unfeasible and this is the legal landscape we live in, so you’ll have to deal with it. DO NOT treat her worse than everyone else. Again: You will get sued, and lose.

  75. Heffalump*

    My take on laws in general is this: If a person would have done the right thing anyway, left to their own devices, then they won’t be affected by the law. If they wouldn’t have done the right thing, then the law is necessary.

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