Moral obligation to disclose pregnancy/parenthood to potential employers

It seems to me that as a society, we ought to accept that becoming a parent is a natural part of being human, and something that a majority of individuals will choose at some point in their life. No one should be punished for becoming a parent, any more than they should be punished for wanting to choose a mate, take a vacation, celebrate a religious holiday, visit ailing grandparents, whatever.

So if society accepts that parenting is a natural and reasonable thing to do, we ought to try to set up the world so that becoming a parent is more or less accommodated in the workforce. This involves appropriate regulations, sensible employers, and understanding co-workers.

Alas, we live in an imperfect world. But we ought to strive to do better – not pick on pregnant women / parents of young children because they have to balance two very important aspects of their lives.

It takes a village, and all that.

Addendum: YIKES. When I clicked on this thread, only the OP was visible (probably a glitch unless a whole slew of people have responded in the last 5 minutes). Now I see a lot of responses. So I have no idea if my commentary is even vaguely relevant to the direction the thread is going in. :eek:

I have to admit, I would be pretty irked if my boss hired a new employee, and I spent months training that person to be a part of my team, and then a couple of months later, they are gone on maternity leave and I have to pick up all of their slack while their position is held open.

Not to mention how much time and effort goes into hiring someone. At my company, it is an arduous process. Sorting through resumes to find the right candidates; spending hours and hours doing interviews (while all my other work piles up); then all the training that is required. We invest so much time choosing a person and then training them. The investment is only worth it if they stay for at least a couple of years,

I think it is disingenuous to allow an employer to invest so much in you if you know you’re not going to be around for very long. It’s also inconsiderate to your coworkers who are counting on you to contribute to the team, and who need you to be there, pulling your weight.

I mean, at my company, if I lost one of my team members for three months, and couldn’t replace them, I would be royally screwed. Who would all that work fall to? Me! I’d never be able to get all that work done. That is just plain shitty to do to your coworkers. And even if I could hire a temp, that would never work because it takes at a bare minimum 3-4 months just to get someone trained in the basics.

If a person knew that they were only available to work for the next 8 months, then maybe they should be applying for temporary positions, not permanent ones.
To CairoCarol, who said “No one should be punished for becoming a parent…”

Agreed, but I also don’t think I should be punished because my coworker is becoming a parent. Their decision directly impacts me, and amounts to 3-4 months of hell while I pick up all their slack while they are gone.

Parenthood is a choice, a decision. It should be planned for, and part of that plan should include what to do about employment. It’s not wise to decide to get pregnant while you are unemployed or job hunting.

I’m sorry, but no… I never signed up to help take care of your kids or anyone else’s. I pay my taxes that go toward schools and other stuff for your kids, I think that is quite enough. I never signed up to do your work for you while you are gone for 4 months taking care of Junior. Now if you were to pay me extra for all the extra work I’ll have to do while you’re on maternity leave, then great! Have fun and see you in 4 months! But it’s not like that.

Don’t have kids unless you can handle it yourself. Don’t count on the “village” to help you out, because we have our own lives to take care of.

It’s not always a decision, and 3-4 months is not always the amount of time one takes off. If someone in that situation is job hunting, I doubt they can really afford to take 4 months off work. My SO told me her mother was back to work 2 weeks after she was born (not sure how long she was off before that).

The law is in place to prevent discrimination. Letting the employer know gives them the opportunity to not hire you for a different reason (there is always another reason) and the capability to still cover their hide.

Hiring involves bomb-dropping on both sides, this is just a fairly hefty one.

Some of you write as if no woman ever gave birth to you.

Being pregnant is a natural condition. It is not an illness. Many women are able to work right up until they give birth. And those nurses will have them out of bed and walking in short order. You are home the next day if everything is normal.

When I was born, the mother was allowed to sit in a chair about the tenth day after birth. No kidding!

Surely most of you could understand if the mother takes maybe a week from work to bond with the child? Then she can return to work and the Dad can spend a week with the child. Then maybe a grandparent or someone else can alternate with them or take over until the baby can be placed in daycare. Sometimes there are minimum age limits for babies.

Lots of those terrific employers to work for have on-site daycare centers for the convenience of fathers and mothers. There is no reason that child care should be unequally the woman’s responsibility.

Would you say the same thing about a man – that he needs to decide whether he wants to be in a family or the workplace? Will we finally begin to ask males how they manage to juggle both a career and a home life? :rolleyes:

Sometimes that does take quite an effort. My Dad worked over seventy hours a week and still managed to be the most nurturing parent! It can be done, catsix.

No one has said that the woman applying for the job is going to stop working and disappear forever after three or four months. You are painting a worst case scenario needlessly. At the other end of the spectrum, she might end up working there for the next forty years and become the best boss and friend you’ve ever had. Who knows?

Have you forgotten how to celebrate new life? Do you hate working that much?

I agree that the 3-4 month figure for maternity leave seems a little ridiculous. If the OP is jobhunting during her pregnancy, it seems that she doesn’t have the resources to take an extended period of time off, or she wouldn’t be worrying about it.

I know plenty of women who have gone back to work in as little as 2 weeks, and I would say that the upper end of the spectrum is about 6 weeks.

I think the issue here is that people view pregnancy as a choice, and that it is the woman’s “fault” for getting pregnant without having everything planned out beforehand. Things happen. Condoms break, women forget to take their pills. Hell, I’ve got a friend who’s gotten pregnant 1) on birth control (twice, on two different types, while taking the pills correctly) and 2) after having an IUD implanted. A lot of pregnancies are unplanned, and many women aren’t going to terminate an unexpected pregnancy just because it might inconvenience her potential employers. Should my friend warn future employers that she will very likely get pregnant in the near future, since the Fates have decided she must be the most fertile woman on the earth? Or should she terminate her pregnancies because they are such an inconvenience? Or just stop having sex with her husband?

I see it from the perspective of any medical issue, e.g. back surgery or chemotherapy. Is a person who knows that in 6 months they’ll have to have back surgery and need several weeks to recover doing something “immoral” by not disclosing that to his potential employers? How about a woman who is a cancer survivor looking for jobs once her cancer is in remission? There’s a chance the cancer could return. Should she let any potential employers know?

The doctor’s appointments during pregnancy are brief and infrequent until you get further along. During the first trimester IIRC you only go once a month. These are easy to schedule on a lunch hour or before or after work, and are no different than any other doctor’s visit. What about an employee with horrible dental hygiene that requires multiple dentist visits throughout the year to have root canals, etc? Are they immoral by not telling their potential employers they have horrible teeth and will need frequent dental care?

As for the maternity leave, my old employer offered 2 weeks vacation and 6 personal days a year, and people often took 3 weeks off at a time. The company did not come crashing down around anyone’s ears.

There’s three different situations under consideration here though. One is a woman who is interviewing for a job knowing that she will be taking maternity leave soon after starting it, another is an already employed woman who might get pregnant in the future, and the third is someone who already has kids working or interviewing.

My contention is that the first situation, interviewing while pregnant and knowing that there’s going to be a big need for a lot of time off in short oder, is the one where there’s an issue. In that case I do think that the person doing the hiring should be able to choose whether to hire someone with the fact that the person will definitely have an attendance issue. Where I work, it takes significant time to train someone in the company’s software and technology, usually measured in months. If my boss wants someone who’s not going to be around for training and then gone for weeks, why should my boss be forced by law to hire one who’s pregnant?

Because everyone has the right to make the best living they can. As was said upthread, most companies anticipate these things and have contingency plans to deal with them. After all, there’s no guarantee the employee is going to work for a specified length of time, anyway; pregnant or not. It’s all a crapshoot.

Also, in my experience, companies routinely pull the rug out from under employees far more often than the reverse. Unlike the employer, employees have little recourse when that happens. We all take chances. A smart business person will hire a person based on their skills and work around the glitches.

It’s not ‘all a crapshoot’ when you’re talking about interviewing for jobs while pregnant: that person knows that they will soon be unable to work for some length of time.

So does a dialysis patient or someone with chronic back problems. All these people still have the right to make a living. If one employer has the right to refuse to hire (secretly based on pregnancy), so do all of them. If all of them say, “sorry…that’s not going to work out for me” then the employee is effectively being deprived of the right to work.

On the one hand, you do have this moral obligation, to be truthful about your ability to work. On the other hand, you have an obligation to ensure the good health and welfare of your family.

If I (theoretically, since I’m a dude) need this job to provide for my family, the new boss can suck up a little inconvenience. OTOH, if a pregnancy makes you completely unable to perform the job*, then it goes beyond inconvenience and into just being a fraud.

As to the fact that it inconviences co-workers. There is absolutely no difference between the 7mo term employee going out for 2 months starting June and the 70mo term employee going out for 2 months starting June.

  • Such as in my wife’s industry, live theater. When you load/tech a new show, you’re going to be needed for maybe a month’s worth of 12+ hour days, and you know this schedule in advance. Accepting a job knowing you’ll be 8+ months pregnant during the short time you’ll be most needed is not appropriate.

While I understand it in your wife’s situation, for the majority of jobs, I don’t think there’s any obligation to disclose. Most pregnant women have no idea what the pregnancy will bring. You can start out just fine and then develop a condition that will require complete bedrest. Them’s the breaks.

I was recently told I was being laid off in a few months. I was told this after I became pregnant and the lay off was for reasons unrelated to me personally. The company did not hesitate to lay me off though they knew I was pregnant; I was given no special consideration because I was pregnant. Why would I be morally obligated to show an employer special consideration because I was pregnant?

I immediately started looking for work, both inside and outside of my company. I disclosed my pregnant status to no interviewer even though I had told my current boss immediately. When I was hired for a position in another division, I did not disclose my pregnancy until the transfer was final and I saw the paperwork. I then scheduled a meeting with my boss, whom I had never met in person to tell her. She congratulated me and what is more confirmed that not telling her sooner was the right thing to do. It was the action that complied best with the company’s ethics as they them to every employee.

She also started to do calculations about when my eight weeks of paid maternity leave would start and was pleased that it did work out better than it could have from her perspective, but reiterated, it doesn’t matter if it is convenient to her or not, “As your manager, it is my job to figure out how to work around it, so don’t worry about it at all.” She also emphasized that she felt lucky to have me and hoped that I would stay on her team for a long time.

All during my job search, my company did not reveal my pregnancy to the managers looking to hire me or the human resources representatives who were pimping me for positions, even though my company and my HR rep knew. Had I any qualms about my decision to keep mum about being a mum-to-be, this would have quelled them. The company did forward information like my performance reviews to prospective managers, but only information that would be relevant to the hiring decision.

As for paying enough to let one parent stay home, my husband is a stay at home father. He can’t work due to disability, but normally can care for our child. I don’t see how that is strictly relevant. Just because a company pays enough so that one can be the sole breadwinner, does it obligate the employee to be a sole breadwinner? Currently there are some jobs which pay twice as much as others, are those who earn twice as much obligated to have a spouse who does not work outside the home? I also strongly object to the idea that the woman needs to be the one staying at home. That has never been my preference, and I feel ill suited to the task.

I also think it is ill considered this trend to act like pregnancy should be and is always a planned event. As others have pointed out, it is not always. As a society, I think we should be wary of placing extra barriers between pregnant women and employment. Unless we choose to be solely an immigrant society or choose to dwindle, we need women to have children. If we want these women not to need to rely on a public safety net, most will need to be employed through pregnancy and chance dictates at least a few will be changing jobs while pregnant. Since even temporary voluntary withdrawal from the workforce can kill a career expecting this extra disclosure which may kill her chances of finding employment of a woman who is pregnant and changing jobs is not good for society. It means that she and her family will be far more likely to need public assistance for one thing.

Pregnancies, planned, unplanned, unwanted, surprise, or otherwise are a condition that we as a society have fought very hard for to make an issue of choice. If you are in a position that you cannot afford to have child on one income, then you are doing nothing but scamming a company for benefits if you apply under less than honest terms.

It’s one thing to use your maternity leave and other benefits if you have worked for a while and paid into the system. It’s another one completely to expect an employer to cover YOUR bills that YOU had a choice about, and leave.

But you’re not leaving…you’re taking maternity leave. There’s a difference.

If an employer knows there is going to be a wave of lay-offs in a year, and that someone being hired now will have little senority and will likely be laid off, do they have an ethical obligation to reveal that?

It seems to me that if someone spends months and months training a person for a job, whether or not they are gone six weeks somewhere in the middle is not that important–you spend months and months training someone because you hope they will be around for years, and in the context of years, six weeks one way or the other is not that big of a deal. And all this talk of six months off is really confusing me–even those few employers who offer paid maternity leave seem to offer at most six weeks off, and even unpaid leave covered under FMLA only covers 12 weeks–if someone wants to be gone six months, the company has the option of replacing them.

Yes, they do. However what is ethical and what is legal are often two very different beasts.

Kalhoun , coming back to work is certainly preferable than leaving to stay with the kid, from an ethical standpoint. It doesn’t change the fact though, that women who do this are cheating the company out of expected work extremely early on in their tenure at that job. While we cannot discriminate based on pregnancy, it’s also fair to say that a good portion of women have a change of heart and decide to stay home with the sprog. Just like the pregnancy was not intended, the descision to leave was not intended, but a result of new and unusual circumstances.

In general it is also important to remember that not all companies are giant evil faceless corporations. The one I work for, has about 50 employees TOTAL and I know most of them by name. Medical benefits were offered to all of us, and those who chose to pay into the system deserve to use it when it is neccesary to do so. For someone in their first few months to use so much when having paid so little is unethical IMHO. Pregnancies, and their accompannig plethora of un needed doctor visits in the modern age are an elective condition.

But, no matter how long you’ve worked somewhere, employer’s don’t give you anything. At the last job where it applied to me, I got three and a half months of paid maternity leave because that was the combination of vacation time, sick leave, and short-term disability leave that I’d accumulated. Another woman, who’d started there when she was about three months along, took six weeks but all but one week was unpaid. We did have really good insurance–since we worked for a hospital. It also covered the multiple knee surgeries of another employee, who incurred the injury while skiing, and nobody suggested he ought to pay for his own surgery out of pocket because skiing was his choice. Or that he shouldn’t take time off for his doctor’s and physical therapy appointments. Or that he should have disclosed before taking the job that he was a skier, and therefore something like this might happen.

Likewise if the employee just decides they don’t like the job or don’t want to continue to work for any reason. Why single out pregnancy when the exact same situation can come up for reasons unrelated to child-bearing? How would you look at a woman who worked for 5 years and then decided to have three children in quick succession? Is that also unethical?

I don’t see how you figure it as cheating. Both ethically and legally, the employer has no right to expect to know what anyone’s family planning outlook is. If there is a woman of child-bearing age in a company’s employ, the chance of pregnancy-related time off is there. But so is the chance for injury-, illness-, or family leave-related time off. These are all issues that can come up at any time and can also be pre-existing at the time of employment.

Does Stephen Hawking have the right to be a fork lift operator?