Ca­reer Coach

Working Mother - - Contents -

Rude co-worker com­ments, be­ing pres­sured to re­turn from ma­ter­nity leave, and more.

AMan­agers legally can’t tell you to cut leave short if you qual­ify for it through the Fam­ily and Med­i­cal Leave Act ( you can check work­ing­ to find out), says Carolyn Wheeler, an em­ploy­ment lawyer at Wash­ing­ton, DC, law firm Katz, Mar­shall & Banks LLP. FMLA laws “pro­hibit in­ter­fer­ence with the right to take that leave and pro­hibit re­tal­i­a­tion against an el­i­gi­ble em­ployee.”

But if your em­ployer is spon­sor­ing your leave and you’re not pro­tected by FMLA, check your em­ployee hand­book for con­di­tions to leave—like if it’s sub­ject to a man­ager’s ap­proval or can be short­ened for business needs. If there aren’t any, then you still can’t be pres­sured to come back early. Even if you’re not covered by FMLA, Ti­tle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pre­vents re­tal­i­a­tion on the ba­sis of preg­nancy.

Nan­nina An­gioni— a la­bor and em­ploy­ment at­tor­ney and part­ner for Kae­dian LLP— an all-fe­male law firm in Los An­ge­les, rec­om­mends telling your man­ager in writ­ing that you def­i­nitely won’t be back early to help with the project. “Pro­fes­sion­ally but firmly re­it­er­ate that you are aware the law pro­vides you with job-pro­tected leave and you will be tak­ing it,” she says. “Make clear that you ex­pect the com­pany will up­hold its le­gal obli­ga­tions.”

Pres­sure still on? File a com­plaint with up­per man­age­ment and HR, says An­gioni. Ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion and pro­vide copies of pre­vi­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion with your man­ager about your leave. If that doesn’t help, “file a claim with the Depart­ment of Fair Em­ploy­ment and Hous­ing, or con­tact an at­tor­ney to tell the com­pany that this con­duct must stop. Be clear that you won’t be bul­lied and you will stand up for your rights.”

Sadly, if there are caveats in your pol­icy and you’re not pro­tected by FMLA, then you have to re­turn early—or risk be­ing fired. Still, you can ex­plain to your man­ager that you were count­ing on us­ing all of your leave and of­fer a com­pro­mise: In ex­change for get­ting the 12 weeks, you’ll train a tem­po­rary re­place­ment or take on ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­fore you wel­come your baby.


Wow, what a tool! The most im­por­tant thing you can do in this sit­u­a­tion is not treat it like a joke, says Amanda Au­gus­tine, ca­reer ad­vice ex­pert for the re­sume-writ­ing ser­vice TopRe­sume. “Don’t laugh it off; your col­league needs to know what he said won’t be tol­er­ated.”

If you get some­thing sim­i­lar again, Au­gus­tine rec­om­mends speak­ing up right away. “Tell your co-worker that, no, you’re not preg­nant, and you’d ap­pre­ci­ate it if he never, ever asks you such a ques­tion again,” she says. “If you be­come preg­nant and want your col­leagues to know, you’ll tell them. Oth­er­wise, your col­league can mind his own business and keep his com­ments to him­self.”

To make sure your body doesn’t come up in a fu­ture en­counter, Jo­ce­lyn Greenky, au­thor of The Big Sis­ter’s Guide to the World of Work: The In­side Rules Ev­ery Work­ing Girl Must Know, urges you to ex­plain why his words were com­pletely out of bounds. Tell him di­rectly, “That kind of com­ment hurts, and it’s not ap­pro­pri­ate for any en­vi­ron­ment—pro­fes­sional or oth­er­wise.”

If the of­fend­ing co-worker is a su­pe­rior, then no­tify your HR depart­ment first about the sit­u­a­tion. They might pre­fer to anony­mously de­liver the mes­sage or even me­di­ate a meet­ing where you ex­plain your feel­ings.

By Joseph Bar­be­rio You may be legally pro­tected from re­turn­ing early.

Take care of jerks with a sim­ple re­sponse.

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