by Vicki Larson
The job interview was going well. I liked my potential boss, and she seemed to like me.
I was genuinely interested in the position with the landscape architecture firm — the office was right on San Francisco’s beautiful waterfront; I could commute by ferry! — although it was only part time and quite different than my traditional newspaper experience. Mostly, I was desperate to leave my then-hell boss. So when I was offered the position a few days later, I told my new boss, “Yes.” What I didn’t tell her was that I was newly pregnant.
Was that wrong?
To tell or not to tell, that truly is the question for many young women. On one hand, you want to be honest and start off on the right foot with your new employer, but on the other you know that your honesty might take you out of the running for a great job. And although employers may not discriminate against pregnant women  under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we all know that people, and employers are people after all, discriminate for lots of reasons — you’re a pretty blonde and therefore perceived as ditzy or an office affair waiting to happen; you’re overweight; you pepper your conversation with “like,” “yeah” and dude.” Not many employers want to hire a woman they know will be taking maternity leave in a few months, and may choose to never come back.
And, I don’t blame them. It often takes a lot of time and energy — and money — to get a new employee up to speed.
But does an employer have a right to know about your pregnancy before you’re offered a job? Do you destroy the trust of your employer if you accept a position and start displaying a bump a few weeks after? Should a potential stay-at-home dad say something? Or is it, as the song says, ain’t nobody’s business but my own?
Women are divided, but most say they would keep quiet until they at least had a job offer (after which, it would be discriminatory to rescind the offer). It’s an uneasy decision, too, because most of us want to be honest, but a lot of us probably have faced some sort of sticky workplace issue just because of our gender.
And now that the country is an economic upheaval, some employers are using that as an excuse to lay off women on maternity leave , according to a recent article in the New York Times — well, as long as they can cite reasons she’s being laid off have nothing to do with her pregnancy issues. Again, who knows if the employer is being honest in his or her reasons? The article states that the number of pregnancy-based discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2008 practically doubled from a decade earlier, 6,285, and exerts predict it will grow.
So, why didn’t I tell? It wasn’t out of some grand deceit. When I applied for the position with the landscape architecture firm, I was barely pregnant — just one period missed. My then-husband and I hadn’t even told the grandparents-to-be yet because it was a few months past my miscarriage, and I was still emotionally devastated. I had no idea if this pregnancy would last, and as silly as it seems, I feared talking about it would jinx me.
When I finally began to show, I told my boss. A newlywed herself, she not only understand, she was also excited for me. And some eight months later, my first son was born. Although I at first debated whether I should stay at the firm or not, I chose to stay home.
And my boss? We remained friends for years — through her own pregnancies.