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January 24, 2014 / Stephanie Anderson

Pregnant job-seeker rights – what the candidate and company must understand

Pregnant job-seeker rightsImagine you’re a hiring manager and you’re getting ready for an in-person interview with an amazing candidate. She walks in and is clearly pregnant, prompting you to immediately worry about maternity leave, sick days and limited availability.

While having these thoughts is far from uncommon, acting on them and choosing to not hire the candidate because she’s expecting is not only unethical, it is completely illegal. The fact is, more than four million babies are born every year in the United States, which means there are a lot of pregnant women – many of whom work or are looking for jobs.

For the company:

As a hiring manager, it’s only a matter of time until you’re interviewing a candidate who is expecting. It can be difficult to put biases aside throughout the hiring process, but it’s an important part of a hiring manager’s job. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Whether she clearly has a baby bump or you’re just suspicious, you can never ask if the candidate is pregnant. Just like you can’t ask if someone is married, has kids or follows a certain religion, pregnancy is off limits. It’s up to the candidate if she wants to address the topic.

2. Keep focused on your ultimate goal which is finding the right person for the job. Use appropriate criteria to assess the candidate, like experience, communication skills, technical aptitude, etc. You may even want to discuss with an unbiased party who doesn’t know the candidate is pregnant to get another opinion.

3. Don’t over think it. When it comes to hiring, trusting your intuition is important. If you’ve found the right person, it shouldn’t matter if she’s having a baby or not. Simply hire the best candidate for the position.

For the Candidate:

While this situation may be unique for hiring managers, it can also be tricky for pregnant women looking for a job. Let’s face it, life doesn’t stop when you’re expecting, and you shouldn’t have to feel like you have to wait until your baby is born and settled before you apply and interview for a new job. Here are a few things to know:

1. You do not need to disclose a pregnancy nor do you need to discuss it if it is physically obvious. It is your choice if you want to broach the topic.

2. You have the right to address your pregnancy and ask questions about benefits. You may want to ask about the company’s maternity policy, insurance benefits and new employee eligibility.

3. You most likely won’t be eligible for job protection through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). To be eligible you must have worked for an employer subject to the Act for 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave. However, your spouse may be eligible and want to consider using their FMLA to care for the baby right after birth or intermittently throughout the year. Some companies will honor FMLA-type leave in the absence of eligibility, so ask if you feel comfortable.

4. If you feel you have been discriminated against due to your pregnancy, contact your state’s department of labor or learn more at www.EEOC.gov.