Soon to Be Formerly Unemployed

Remember that interview last week? I got an offer!

I am so f*cking excited! I didn’t just get a job, I got a job in something I’d like to be doing (besides writing, that is). It’s a career path that I think I could stick with long term.

If given the chance.

After saying, “Yes! I accept the offer!” and working out the details of starting on Monday morning, he asked if I had any questions. I said something like, “One teency tiny little one.  Um. What is the maternity leave policy?”

<crickets>

The HR representative was literally speechless for a minute before responding. While he gathered his thoughts, I explained that my bi-weekly (soon to be weekly) doctor’s checkups would require me to miss some work from time to time until I give birth, at which point I will need to have some kind of maternity leave.

He told me that as far as being absent during training and needing leave eventually, “That’s something you’ll have to work out with your trainer and, after 6 weeks of training, then your manager. It’s up to your manager on how to handle any of that.” Since I don’t qualify for FMLA leave, any leave I can get has to be personally arranged with my supervisor, and then that agreement is provided to HR – HR stays out of that discussion since it’s not FMLA leave. (Another aside: my friends are also aghast that I’m not guaranteed ANY maternity leave. At all. FMLA isn’t universal. It’s not. You have to have worked for your employer for the 12 months prior to your time off, and have worked a minimum number of hours within those 12 months. And that’s if you work for an employer that offers FMLA, because not everyone has to. News flash: Employers can do whatever they want in terms of giving time off for a baby.)

So I won’t know until 7 weeks from now if I can negotiate any time off for maternity leave. And no time off would obviously be a deal-breaker. I don’t mean to be an A-hole and take a job only to ditch it in 3 months if it turns out I can’t get any leave, but the reality is I need work, I need a paycheck, and I want this job. So I’ll do it for at least the next 6 weeks, even if I have to quit in order to get a maternity leave. So I start my new job on Monday!

How Should I Be Handling This?

When I was laid off last fall, I was 3 months pregnant. I, of course, knew that, but my employer and coworkers didn’t. So while I was ready to move on from museum work, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to trying to find work as a pregnant lady. I have been fortunate enough to land a couple of interviews, and finally one of them has materialized into an offer. It’s working for University of Phoenix, and at the interview for that job, I had to fill out paperwork that says, “The University takes pride in the quality of employees to whom we have extended employment opportunities. In an effort to ensure that you are taking every advantage of your new employee training period, we highly suggest that you maintain 100% attendance during the training phase. Tardiness and/or absenteeism may result in disciplinary action. To ensure your employment success, we ask employees to keep their schedules free of extended appointments and vacations during the first 6 months of employment. Please provide us with the information below if you are not able to currently modify any future appointments. Requests for time off are not guaranteed and may not be paid during your first 90 days of employment. Leaving this section blank indicates your schedule is free of appointments.”

Here’s the thing: if I were obviously pregnant, I probably would have been honest on the form because my interviewers would just march back to HR and say, “Either she’s pregnant or she swallowed a bowling ball.” But I’m not obviously pregnant. Even though I’m due in 3 and a half months, I’m not showing. I was able to wear my regular non-maternity clothes to the interview, and by wearing busy prints on top, I can further distract from what’s going on. More importantly, I’m not sure how I was supposed to handle this.

After I’d been laid off, I got in touch with my HR person at my last job and told her I was pregnant and asked how to handle disclosure at job interviews and negotiations, and she said that in no uncertain terms that I should not say anything until I recieve an offer. (An aside: My friends have been incredibly naive about this, btw. They’re all up on a soapbox screaming “You can’t do that! Employers can’t not hire you just because you’re pregnant! That’s discrimination!”) News flash: Sure, employers can’t discriminate against you because you’re pregnant, but they can find *other* reasons not to hire you, including the all-purpose “It just isn’t the right fit right now.”

So by saying on the form, uh, I’m going to need time off during training to keep up with my bi-weekly, and soon to be weekly doctor’s appointments, that could be a major red flag and they could just say, well, maybe the timing isn’t right right now since you can’t commit to our training attendance policy. And by saying, uh, I’m going to need at least 6 weeks off this summer, they could not hire me because I’m asking for extensive time off during my probationary phase. So I left it blank and signed it.

Now that they have given me an offer,  I told them, and the hiring HR manager was literally speechless before asking if he could call me back. They told me that as far as being absent during training and needing leave “That’s something you’ll have to work out with your trainers and, after 6 weeks of training, your manager. It’s up to your manager on how to handle any of that” since I don’t qualify for FMLA leave. (Another aside: my friends are also aghast that I’m not guaranteed leave. FMLA isn’t universal. It’s not. You have to have worked for your employer for the 12 months prior to your need for time off, and have worked a minimum number of hours. And that’s if you work for an employer that offers FMLA, because not everyone has to.) News flash: Employers can do whatever they want in terms of giving time off for a baby.

The bottom line is that I won’t know until 7 weeks from now if I can negotiate any time off for maternity leave. And no time off would obviously be a deal-breaker. I don’t mean to be an A-hole and take a job only to ditch it in 3 months if that’s the case, but the reality is, I need work, I want this job, and I need the paycheck until then, even if not beyond then. So I start my new job on Monday!

What To Expect from a Job Interview When You’re Expecting

I finally managed to land a job interview. For a real job I would actually love to have! I’m beyond excited, but the interview is TOMORROW. Btw, seriously, people? You call up a job candidate to ask “What are you doing tomorrow between 11-12:30?” because that’s your only available window for an interview? Hmmm. I’m guessing I was on the alternates list.

I can’t afford any interview clothes but lucky for me, my pre-pregnancy wardrobe still fits okay (mostly). I can barely zip the skirt, but with my cheap imitation Bella band, it should be fine. So, if you find yourself in this situation, here is my advice:

  • Wear prints on top. It’s distracting and no one can tell that there’s a growing bump.
  • Wear a jacket or sweater, or even just a long scarf over the printed top. (Maybe she’s just locally fat?)
  • You could do crazy make-up. Then they’ll be puzzling over your face and too distracted to look south at your belly.
  • Don’t accept the bottled water they’ll offer you. You have to pee every 3 seconds anyway, so don’t press your luck.

And when they hand you a document to sign that says:

“[Employer] takes pride in the quality of employees to whom we have extended employment opportunities. In an effort to ensure that you are taking every advantage of your new employee training period, we highly suggest that you maintain 100% attendance during the training phase. Tardiness and/or absenteeism may result in disciplinary action. To ensure your employment success, we ask employees to keep their schedules free of extended appointments and vacations during the first 6 months of employment. Please provide us with the information below if you are not able to currently modify any future appointments. Requests for time off are not guaranteed and may not be paid during your first 90 days of employment. Leaving this section blank indicates your schedule is free of appointments…”

Lie. Lie, lie, lie.

Here’s the thing: if I were obviously pregnant, I probably would have been honest on the form because my interviewers would just march back to HR and say, “Either she’s pregnant or she swallowed a bowling ball.” But I’m not obviously pregnant. Even though I’m due in 3 1/2  months, I’m not really showing. I was able to wear my regular non-maternity clothes to the interview, and by wearing busy prints on top, I can further distract from what’s going on.

More importantly, I’m not sure how I was supposed to handle this.

After I’d been laid off, I got in touch with my HR representative at the museum where I’d worked to ask how to handle the pregnancy disclosure at job interviews and negotiations, and she said in no uncertain terms that I should not say anything until I recieve an offer. (An aside: My friends have been incredibly naive about this, btw. They’re all up on a soapbox screaming “You can’t do that! Employers can’t not hire you just because you’re pregnant! That’s discrimination!” News flash: Sure, employers can’t discriminate against you because you’re pregnant, but they can find *other* reasons not to hire you, including the all-purpose “It just isn’t the right fit right now.”)

So by saying on the form, uh, I’m going to need time off during the training phase to keep up with my bi-weekly, soon to be weekly, doctor’s appointments, that could be a major red flag and they could just say, well, maybe the timing isn’t right right now since you can’t commit to our training attendance policy. And by saying, uh, I’m going to need at least 6 weeks off this summer, they could not hire me because I’m asking for extensive time off during my probationary phase. So I left it blank and signed it. We’ll have to wait to see what unfolds

Overheard: Neighborhood Kids

One thing that brings me such joy and entertainment are the neighborhood kids. There’s this whole posse of them that all live around me and hang out together, getting into all sorts of antics. And especially during my unemployment, I’m home during the day in the middle of the week, and with the windows open, I get to eavesdrop on their conversations. Today, I heard the following:

Kid #1 to Kid #2: “My mom says we can’t play with you anymore because of, well, yesterday’s, uh, incident.”

Rollercoaster

I thought I’d take you along on the rollercoaster ride that I’ve been on lately. Between being laid off (booo!) and knocked up (woohoo!), it’s been a hell of a ride.

Would you rather get the highs or the lows first? Actually, as I type that out, I realize that part of the problem is that they’re pretty intertwined so they’re inseparable. Sound crazy? Well, it is…

  • A high: Why, yes, I am currently working part-time, but (here’s the low): only for 6 more weeks, then it’s back to unemployment (and by then I’ll be almost 7 months pregnant and who will hire me then?!).
  • A high: My part-time job affords me the opportunity to have a time set aside each and every week to look for and apply for work. A low: I haven’t found anything. At all.
  • A high: I did go on two interviews in the past couple of weeks. The jobs weren’t all that suitable given my skill set, but I was still happy to have a chance to practice my interview skills, if nothing else. A low: I got the “not the right fit” spiel for one of them, a “thank you for your interest, we wish you luck” form letter for the other.
    • It’s hard enough to find a job when you’re not pregnant. Nevermind a job that’s a good fit, especially in this craptastic economy. But when you’re pregnant, employers may not be able to discriminate against you because you’re pregnant, but they can find tons of *other* reasons why you’re “just not a good fit right now.” It’s like a time bomb – the sooner I find work the better – before I’m really showing, ideally.
    • The fact that I’m switching careers doesn’t help. Any little thing (up to and including the very little baby I’m carrying) can be used against me when I’m competing against folks who already have more directly applicable experience in [fill-in-the-blank].
  • The highest of highs: I am so excited to be having my first baby! Also thanks to my part-time job, I get paid to surf the web shopping for cribs, nursery décor, and strollers. The downside to that: I can’t afford any of it right now.

See what I mean? Is it the hormones, or the unemployment? Since I’m experiencing both, I don’t think I’ll ever know…