Stop your team from treating you like the “office mom,” weekend Slack etiquette, and more.
At our small doctor’s office, two of my co-workers and I became pregnant last year and used five weeks each of short-term disability. Our employer hired temps to cover for us and later gave a $500 bonus to the remaining staff to show his appreciation for NOT getting pregnant. Is this legal?
Um, probably not. “Federal law prohibits an employer to treat any employee differently in the terms and conditions of her employment because of gender, pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition,” says Gregory S. Chiarello, an employment lawyer at Outten & Golden LLP.
Since only the new moms missed out on the bonus, Chiarello thinks your boss likely violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids employers from discriminating against employees based on gender and gender-stereotyping ( like assuming expecting and new mothers are less dedicated to their work). The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 specifically bans discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. There might even be more state or local laws that your employer also may have broken.
You and your colleagues should first consult with a lawyer to make a plan, says Chiarello. One option: Write a formal complaint to your employer, explaining why you think you were discriminated against, and ask for the bonus. If that doesn’t work, you can also file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a similar state or local office. If you’re worried about your boss’s reaction, remember: “Federal law and most state and local laws prohibit retaliation against employees for engaging in any of the above complaint procedures,” says Chiarello.
I’m the “office mom” at my job, tasked with planning holiday parties and bringing in cake for colleagues’ birthdays, even though I’m no one’s assistant. I do enough of this for my own family and am sick of doing it at work too, but I’m worried complaining would make me look like I’m not a team player. How can I make it stop?
It’s an unfair stereotype: Moms are seen as being good at and happy to dabble in minor event planning in the office, perhaps because we tend to be the ones throwing family parties. But those extra responsibilities aren’t, well, your responsibility. And you have every right to turn down the role. “As a working mom and a strong employee, it’s important to be able to say no,” says Kori Renn, head of coaching and student services for the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Renn recommends scheduling a meeting with your manager to discuss the situation. If these tasks are interfering with your work, then come prepared with
specific examples of how your job is being impacted. You will also want to calculate how much time you have spent on these side responsibilities and explain how this would be better spent doing your actual job. Even if these extra tasks aren’t hurting your work performance, you should still meet with your manager and let her know you’d like to scale back.
Suggest alternative ways of assigning these tasks, such as a rotating schedule, Renn says. That way the work gets split up evenly and doesn’t get unfairly assigned to one person. Greg in accounting is perfectly capable of hanging up the “Happy Birthday” banner once a month.
I recently started at a new company where the entire team communicates on Slack, sending instant messages over weekends and even on holidays. I like to unplug when I’m away from the office and enjoy quality time with my family. Can I go incommunicado without being a bad co-worker?
The first thing you should do: Casually chat with your new co-workers to see if they feel obligated to be online every day or if they do it voluntarily, says Lucy English, Ph.D., a human resources consultant.
If they confirm that it’s an unspoken (or stated!) rule of the office, then discuss your dilemma with your manager. “Tell her that in the past you’ve found your time off to be important and restorative, and that you’d like to better understand the expectations,” says Dr. English. It might be necessary for you to have some availability on your days off. If that’s the case, then clearly lay out when you can and can’t be reached for whatever reason, adds Renn.
Still, Denise Dudley, author of Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted, suggests adding one other vital message, about your availability in emergencies. Make clear that “you realize there might be extenuating circumstances that make it necessary for you to be contacted on your time off and that you’ll be right there, as a valued and reliable member of the team,” she says.
But use the tech to your advantage. For example, Slack allows users to create separate channels for different purposes. Suggest creating an urgent channel for messages that absolutely need to be answered over the weekend—and save the Game of Thrones recaps for another channel.
Getting pregnant may have cost three moms $500 each.
If your boss buzzes after hours, must you reply?