Pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a child can be expensive. Because of this, pregnant women who are out of work often have no other choice but to go on job interviews. Women who are only a few months along may not be noticeably pregnant—especially to interviewers who have never met them before. Many of these women wonder if they have a responsibility or legal obligation to inform potential employers of their pregnancy. Here’s what you should know about discussing your pregnancy during job interviews:
Why Would Potential Employers Want to Know About A Woman’s Pregnancy?
Sadly, many employers are under the impression that pregnant women are not capable of working as hard as other workers. Employers often believe that pregnant women will require too much time off for maternity leave and doctors’ appointments leading up to the birth of their child. Some employers may even worry that a pregnant applicant will not return to work after maternity leave if she is hired for the job. Employers who hold these beliefs want to know about an applicant’s pregnancy so they can avoid hiring pregnant women.
On the other hand, some employers may want to know about an applicant’s pregnancy simply so they can plan ahead. For example, an employer that does not have bad intentions may want to know when you would go on maternity leave if hired so they can figure out how your work will be covered while you are out.
Employers Cannot Ask About Pregnancy During Job Interviews
Both state and federal law prohibit employers from making hiring decisions based on a candidate’s current, future, or perceived pregnancy. This means an employer cannot decide to not hire a woman who they believe is currently pregnant or has plans to get pregnant in the future.
The purpose of a job interview is to learn more about a candidate’s educational background and work experience. Basically, an interview should focus on gathering information about the candidate to determine whether or not they are right for the job. Therefore, the law assumes that any questions asked during an interview are asked to gather information that can be used when choosing a candidate for the job.
Because employers cannot make hiring decisions based on a woman’s pregnancy, employers should not ask candidates about their current or future pregnancies during a job interview. This includes questions such as:
- Are you pregnant?
- When are you due?
- How far along are you?
- Do you plan on taking any time off?
- Are you planning on having more children in the future?
If these questions are asked, the candidate does not need to answer them.
However, it’s important to note that an employer can ask these questions if they are relevant to specific working conditions. For example, if a pregnant woman would not be able to perform the duties of the job, the employer can ask to determine if the applicant is a good fit for the job.
Applicants Do Not Have to Provide Information on Their Pregnancy
Applicants should not feel as if they need to tell potential employers about their pregnancy during the interview. However, if a pregnant woman is hired, they should communicate this information to their employer.
Women do not have to share the news with their employer as soon as they find out they are pregnant. In fact, they only need to share it with their employer when they are requesting reasonable accommodations, a leave of absence, or a job transfer. In California, the law states that pregnant women must provide their employers with at least 30 days notice when requesting reasonable accommodations, pregnancy disability leave, or a job transfer. The notice can be either verbal or written and should include specific information regarding the timing and duration of the leave or accommodation.
This 30 day rule only applies when the need for a reasonable accommodation, job transfer, or leave is foreseeable by the pregnant woman. If the need is not foreseeable, the pregnant woman is not expected to provide a 30 day notice, but she should still notify her employer as soon as possible. The employer cannot deny a pregnant woman’s request simply because she did not foresee the need and provide advance notice.
If a pregnant employee violates the 30 day advance notice rule, the employer has the right to delay the start of the employee’s leave, accommodation, or job transfer for 30 days. But, this is not allowed if doing so would put the woman’s health or pregnancy at risk.
Can An Employer Ask For Medical Documentation Related to Pregnancy?
If a pregnant woman submits a request for a reasonable accommodation, pregnancy disability leave, or job transfer, the employer may ask for medical certification before granting the request. Medical certification is similar to a doctor’s note, but it contains more information. The medical certification must include a number of items, including:
- A description of the accommodation, leave, or transfer that is being requested
- A statement that explains why it is necessary for the employee to be transferred, accommodated, or take a leave of absence
- The date when the accommodation, transfer, or leave will begin and how long it will be needed
Failing to provide this medical certification could lead the employer to deny or delay your request. However, the pregnant employee will be given more time to provide this medical certification if a medical emergency arises that requires her full attention.
If you have been discriminated against because of your pregnancy, seek legal representation from an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible. The employment law attorneys at Shegerian & Associates are ready to seek justice against your employer and recover compensation on your behalf. Contact us today by calling 1-800-GOT-FIRED.