Ca­reer Coach

Working Mother - - Contents - By Joseph Bar­be­rio

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?

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