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In your opinion, is it unfair to an employer to apply for a job while pregnant?
Let me start by saying that, although I have been involved in hiring many people during the course of my career, I am only one person’s opinion, and I welcome readers to chime in in the comments with their own perspectives. I don’t think it’s ever “unfair” to apply for a job, but I think you raise a good question about whether and how you discuss this issue with a prospective employer when applying for a job.
Now, not to get super lawyery on you, but I believe the answer is: “it depends.” I assume you are asking the question because you are dealing with this situation. So start by asking yourself these two questions:
(1) Is the position I am looking at a long-term position?
(2) Am I going back into the work force after baby comes?
If the position you are looking at is a temporary position rather than a long-term position, then I think being pregnant generally is not a factor. If an employer only needs you for a short period of time, then your lack of availability beyond that point is not really relevant.
If the position is a long-term position, then the second question becomes important. If you know for certain that you do not plan to return to work after baby, then yes, it would be unfair not to discuss that with a prospective employer. Hiring someone is an investment of time and resources, and it is unfair to hold yourself out as a “long-timer” if you are not one.
Employers do understand that sometimes things change, life happens, and so forth. Especially in the military families community, that’s certainly true. If you always planned to go back, but then later have a change of heart (or circumstances), that’s one thing. If you take a long-term job knowing that you don’t intend to be a long-term employee, however, that’s entirely different. Remember, every past employer sits on your resume. You want to collect good references, not places you hope a new employer won’t call.
If you do plan to return to work after baby, I still think it’s a good idea to talk to an employer about your pregnancy, but the conversation is very different. Usually, professional jobs involve more than one interview. I don’t think “I’m pregnant!” needs to be the first thing out of your mouth. But if things are going well, and you think there’s the possibility you will get an offer, you need to discuss the fact that you will have a temporary absence in your future. Emphasis on temporary. The timing and terms of that absence can become a point of discussion when you are open with the employer about wanting to make it work. In my experience, that conversation goes a lot more smoothly when it’s an up-front discussion rather than a surprise later.
Now, I’m not going to lie, some employers will be scared off by this issue, which can certainly be discouraging. But remember these two important things:
First, the right kind of employers won’t be afraid of employee family planning; for employers invested in their employees, caring for their families is just par for the course.
Secondly, remember what I said before about past employers living on your resume. Usually the two things an employer remembers most vividly are how you were hired and how you left. Which means, as much as it is within your power, you need to come into a job on the right foot, and also exit on the right foot.
Reda Hicks is the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year. She is a partner in Houston law firm.