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!

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