Monday, October 31, 2005

What To Do When Baby Means A Demotion

First things first, your company absolutely cannot fire you because you are pregnant or because you had a baby. If you return from maternity leave to find that your office has been giving away and your things stored in a nice cardboard box, you have been wronged.

It is likely, though, that employment discrimination will take more subtle forms, and that is what moms of most little ones report. Everyone suddenly assumes that Mom is less likely to be committed to her work, and she suddenly finds herself with a lot of time on her hands at work. If you think that you are being discriminated against because of baby, there are some options at your disposal.

First, you should have been required to complete Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or short-term disability forms when you gave birth. Pay attention to them. Read through them carefully if you suspect a problem because you need to know exactly what your rights are. Write down the provisions you think your employers is not upholding so that you can be sure to have the information handy when you ask about it.

Next, you should keep strict documentation. It may be a moot point now, but you really need to know when you told them your were pregnant and their reaction. Now, though, you should keep in mind that if you decide to pursue this issue, you need to know when everything happened. Keep the date, time, and events that you find important.

Ask your boss about the problems. You need to be realistic, too. If there was a client deadline coming up three weeks after your return, you may have been taken off the project for purely practical reasons - because someone needed to be handling the issue for the six weeks you were not there. If, however, you are having a long-standing customer account moved permanently from your charge, then you need to address this issue.

Give your boss the chance to explain his or her position. Maybe he assumed erroneously that you would not want the client who requires after-hours commitment once you had the baby. You can explain that you fully intend to continue in your duties as normal. You may find that this simple discussion can get things back in line, and everyone will be back on track. Often, managers think they are helping out and do not realize that they are causing a problem with such decisions.

If you cannot resolve the problem, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and ultimately sue your employer. (Remember, though, that your employment record will be on trial here, too.) Another option is simply to leave the company. If you do decide to seek another job, be sure to let your current employer know in your exit interview that you are leaving because you feel baby discrimination. Let someone higher up than your manager know so that someone in the company will (hopefully) deal with the problem. It is a serious issue, and your company should address it for future employees.

By Julia Mercer

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