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Employer Asks If He Can Fire New Employee After Finding Out She's Pregnant — 'I Feel Lied To'

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pregnant woman at work

The data is clear that women frequently face all kinds of challenges in the working world, including being discriminated against.

One employer's response to a female employee's life change says everything about the kind of challenges this discrimination creates for employees and employers alike.

The employer wants to fire a new hire because she's pregnant.

Even in our modern times, pregnancy discrimination is still shockingly common. A 2022 study found that one in five moms experienced discrimination at work during their pregnancy.

It's no wonder, then, that many women choose to hide a pregnancy from their coworkers and bosses.

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That's the situation an employer found himself in when he wrote to workplace advice guru Alison Green's popular social media account "Ask A Manager." And now that he's found out the truth about his new employee, he wants to respond with drastic measures. 

The employer said he felt 'lied to' because his new employee did not reveal she was four months pregnant in her interview. 

"After four weeks on the job, my new employee has told me she is almost five months pregnant and did not say so at the interview because she’d been told that no one would employ her," he wrote to Green

"I feel lied to," he went on to say, before asking if he has "any rights" in this situation. "Can I terminate her or legally do I have to keep her on?"

In an article for Inc, Green responded that she empathizes with the employer's sticky situation: "I get that it can be frustrating to discover that as soon as you finish training someone, and just when they're starting to master their role, they'll be going on leave for a while, and you'll need to find and train a totally different person to cover for them."

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She went on to give the employer a pointed rundown of not just what his rights are, but the real reasons why he found himself in this dilemma in the first place. 

Women do not need to disclose their pregnancies to potential employers and it is not legal to fire an employee due to pregnancy.

"No, you can't legally fire her for being pregnant," Green bluntly wrote, "that would violate the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. And if you wouldn't have hired her if you'd known she was pregnant, that would have been illegal, too."

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 not only makes it illegal to fire a woman for being pregnant, but it also makes it illegal for an employer to even ask a woman if she's pregnant. And as Green pointed out the pregnant employee "also had zero obligation, legally or ethically, to have disclosed her pregnancy to you before you hired her."



There are loopholes, however. As Green went on to point out, small businesses with fewer than 15 employees are not subject to that federal law. But even if this employer did have both state and federal law on his side, Green went on to explain that firing an employee because she's pregnant is a really, really terrible idea on multiple fronts.

"Firing her would be highly likely to make you look like an awful person to the rest of your employees," Green wrote. "It particularly will not help the morale or loyalty of any employees who might become pregnant in the future, want to become pregnant in the future, have partners who might become pregnant in the future, or generally care about people who might become pregnant. So, lots of people," she bluntly added.



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Discriminatory responses to pregnancy are precisely why women hide their pregnancies in the first place. 

In addition to the 20% of women who say they have experienced pregnancy discrimination, the study mentioned above also found that fear of such discrimination is equally as pervasive. It also found that similar proportions of workers, including 23% of fathers, reported having witnessed pregnancy discrimination in their own workplace. 

Given how pervasive this problem is, is it any wonder this employer's new hire didn't reveal her situation? As Green put it in her response, "Your reaction now is exactly why other people told her not to." 

Experts like employment lawyers say it is best to reveal your pregnancy to your employer as soon as possible, but it needs to be done carefully and in writing. And everything that happens thereafter needs to be carefully documented as well. That way, if you are discriminated against, a paper trail exists that the law has been broken.



As for employers, Green's advice was incredibly simple. "The law exists to protect employees in exactly this situation," she wrote. "Accepting that is part of the deal when you employ a workforce made up of humans."

Ultimately, employers and business leaders hold the solution in their own hands. A pregnancy and a job may be mere inconveniences and details to a boss, but they're life-or-death situations to their employees. Treat them as such.

Stop creating and allowing work environments where women feel like their jobs aren't safe if they end up pregnant, and they'll stop lying to you about their pregnancies. It really couldn't be simpler.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.