Fac­ing moth­er­hood, and a lay­off

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTON POST JOBS.COM - KARLA L. MILLER Karla Miller dis­penses ad­vice on work­place dra­mas and trau­mas for the Washington Post Mag­a­zine’s @Work Ad­vice col­umn. She tack­les ques­tions on ob­nox­ious of­fice mates, bul­ly­ing bosses, and get­ting by in the cur­rent job mar­ket. You can read


I am the gen­eral man­ager for the D.C. of­fice of a global firm. I am preg­nant and due in two months. Last week, my boss un­of­fi­cially told me that the com­pany is go­ing to lay me off while I am on ma­ter­nity leave. The boss char­ac­ter­ized the lay­off as busi­ness plan­ning for lead­er­ship changes next fis­cal year. The news was com­pletely un­ex­pected. I am the pri­mary in­come earner in our house­hold, and our in­sur­ance is through my job. Since I got the news, I have not been sleep­ing and my ap­petite is gone.

1. As one of only two peo­ple in the Washington of­fice, I am not cov­ered by the Fam­ily and Med­i­cal Leave Act. Do I have any other le­gal re­course? 2. What’s your ad­vice for ne­go­ti­at­ing a rea­son­able sev­er­ance pack­age? 3. When should I start look­ing for a new job? I don’t think any­one will hire some­one who needs to start ma­ter­nity leave so soon.


“If this were my sis­ter, I’d be say­ing, Talk to a lawyer,’ ” says Tom Spig­gle, founder of the Spig­gle Law Firm and au­thor of “You’re Preg­nant? You’re Fired! Pro­tect­ing Moth­ers, Fathers and Other Care­givers in the Work­place.” (Dis­clo­sure: I read, loved and blurbed it.) Re­gard­less of whether you have a preg­nancy dis­crim­i­na­tion claim, Spig­gle says, a good em­ploy­ment lawyer can of­fer all kinds of sup­port on your be­half or be­hind the scenes. Ad­dress­ing your ques­tions in or­der: 1. Even though FMLA doesn’t ap­ply to your twop­er­son of­fice, Spig­gle notes that other fed­eral, state or lo­cal anti dis­crim­i­na­tion laws might. The D.C. Hu­man Rights Act, for in­stance, cov­ers all D.C. em­ploy­ers re­gard­less of size.

2. Even if this lay­off is le­gal, a lawyer can help ne­go­ti­ate a sev­er­ance pack­age that in­cludes both in­come and health in­sur­ance. As Spig­gle says, “There’s a cer­tain value in hand­ing your prob­lem to some­one else” — es­pe­cially if the ax drops dur­ing those blearyeyed post­na­tal months.

3. It’s never too soon to start net­work­ing. Some em­ploy­ers will de­fer start dates for the right can­di­date — or the in­ter­view process could out­last your ma­ter­nity leave.

Mean­while, you can set your mind at ease with two prac­ti­cal acts: Cut un­nec­es­sary costs now, and re­search pri­vate in­sur­ance op­tions at HealthCare.gov. Fi­nally, as some­one whose spouse was laid off mid­way through my first preg­nancy, I of­fer this bonus ad­vice: Make self­care your top pri­or­ity. Clear your cal­en­dar of nonessen­tial obli­ga­tions. Lean on fam­ily, friends and pro­fes­sion­als. Eat. Take your vi­ta­mins. If sleep won’t come, rest and med­i­tate. Most of all, don’t let an­tic­i­pa­tion of hard times rob you of the joy of look­ing for­ward to the shud­der­ing cry that will rock your world.

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