You're pregnant - congratulations! During a time when you may need space to process the monumental physical and life changes you are undergoing, the prospect of sharing your pregnancy with your boss may be keeping you up at night. Here's what you need to know.
Know Your Rights
Know that You're Protected from Discrimination & Retaliation
Under both the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), you're protected from discrimination because of your pregnancy. This means that your employer can't fire you, demote you, force you to take leave, deny you promotions, deny you assignments, or otherwise treat you differently because of your pregnancy. So while some employers handle the news of an employee's pregnancy poorly or assume pregnancy and leave will be a hassle for them, know that the law is on your side.
(Learn more about how to prove pregnancy discrimination here.)
Know Your PDLL Right to Reasonable Accommodations
Under California's Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL), you have the right to reasonable accommodations for your pregnancy-related medical conditions.
This includes things like morning sickness, gestational diabetes, hyperemesis gravidarum, etc.; it also includes basic pregnancy-related medical restrictions, like prohibitions on heavy lifting, standing for hours on end, or being around chemicals or radiation.
Your employer must engage in the "good faith interactive process" to accommodate your medical needs. This can include providing you with a modified work schedule, additional absences, modified duty, additional equipment, extra breaks, or even an extended leave of absence.
If you're running into problems with obtaining your accommodations, this is a time when you should talk to a lawyer.
Know Your PDLL Right to Intermittent Leave
Under the PDLL, you have the right to up to four months of "job-protected" leave (you can't be fired and, with a few exceptions, your position can't be eliminated) that is partially paid through the state's disability leave program (through the EDD).
You can use this leave "intermittently," which means "not all at once." You can use it in small increments like half a day to attend a doctor's appointment. This means that being nauseous and needing to leave work, requesting time off for ultrasounds or regular prenatal care, etc. cannot be counted against you under your company's absence policies.
Again, if you are having trouble with exercising your PDLL right to intermittent leave, you should talk to an experienced employment attorney.
When to Tell Your Boss You're Pregnant
Tell Your Employer Before You Share the News with Co-Workers
Ultimately, the decision about when to tell your boss about your comes down to what you're comfortable with. That said, you should follow some general rules, and earlier is almost always better when it comes to protecting yourself from discrimination and ensuring your medical needs are accommodated.
First, tell HR or your supervisor before you share the news with any co-workers who might gossip about your pregnancy. If your employer learns of your pregnancy before you formally notify them, you give them a chance to create a record to justify any later adverse employment actions before you can prove they knew about your pregnancy. (It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but we've seen it happen too many times not to warn you about it.)
Tell Your Employer as Soon as You Need Accommodations or Foresee the Need for Accommodations
Even though it may be awkward, you should tell HR or your supervisor about your pregnancy if anything about your pregnancy is affecting or might affect your job performance. Rather than just calling in sick, missing work, or allowing your job performance to change without explanation, you should always tell your employer that you're pregnant. Your disclosure triggers your employer's duty to try to accommodate you, and requires them to disclose your rights under the PDLL. By sharing the news, you now have the right to the intermittent leave and accommodations we discussed above.
Again, it may be uncomfortable to share intimate news with your employer earlier than with some family or friends, but disclosing your pregnancy gives you the legal protections women have fought so hard to earn. Don't be too shy to use them.
What to Say to Your Boss About Your Pregnancy and How to Say It
Keep it Simple and Constructive
Most people recommend sharing the news in person or by phone. (But see the next piece of advice, and make sure to confirm your discussion in writing.) You should share your due date and ask for any critical information like who to talk to about benefits or maternity leave. You should reiterate that you intend to return to work after your pregnancy and that you are committed to the company and your role.
You are under no obligation to present a "transition plan" or explain to your boss how they will cover for you while you're out--pieces of advice offered by many women's blogs--but if you think this will be helpful, feel free to do so.
Confirm the News in Writing
Whether you initially have an in-person conversation or not, you should always confirm news of your pregnancy in writing. This can be as simple as a follow-up email to HR saying, "Thanks for talking today. As we discussed, I'm pregnant and have a due date of [due date]." Include any additional items you have questions about, such as leave rights or accommodations (see below). Again, this allows you to prove your employer knew about your pregnancy.
Request Information About Your Leave and Accommodation Rights
In California, as we discussed earlier, all employers with more than five employees are covered by the PDLL, a great law that provides significant protections for pregnant workers. Your employer is required to provide notice to you of your rights under the PDLL in three separate ways: first, in an employee handbook (if you have one) or at the time of hire; second, by posting required notice in a conspicuous location at your worksite; and third, by providing required notices *again* when you disclose your pregnancy. Many employers don't do this. As discussed above, the PDLL is your best friend as a pregnant worker, and you need to understand your rights in order to assert them.
After you talk to your boss and nail down who to speak to about your benefits, you should immediately request information about your rights under any applicable statutes and company policies. This will allow you to plan and assert yourself.
Talk to an Experienced Pregnancy Discrimination Attorney
If you're pregnant and working, it's critical that you know your rights. Our experienced pregnancy discrimination attorneys are here for free consultations and can talk you through your situation. We know how stressful it can be to be a working mom, and we are passionate about helping women fight for their right to stay in the workforce.
If you have experienced discrimination at your job, do not hesitate to contact us today through our website or give us a call at (213) 214-3757 to schedule a free consultation.