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Tell bosses: Keep family planning and pregnancy talk out of the workplace

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

It’s natural to ask questions when you learn someone at work is going to have a baby. After all, an anticipated birth is usually a happy time, and co-workers may be delighted for the expectant mother.

But it’s quite another thing when pregnancy-related questions come from supervisors and managers. In fact, the best response to a pregnancy announcement is a simple “Congratulations.”

Then let HR handle any leave requests and the like. Otherwise, you just might find your questions interpreted as anti-pregnancy bias if you end up having to fire a pregnant employee.

Recent case:
Elsa Cocannouer worked as a computer-aided design (CAD) manager. She had never received any negative comments about her work. Then Cocannouer became pregnant. Approximately one week after she notified her manager of her pregnancy, she was demoted from the position of CAD manager to the position of CAD drafter. A man replaced her in the CAD manager role.

Meanwhile, her supervisor asked her about her pregnancy and whether she planned to have more children. Shortly after, she was fired for alleged poor performance.

Cocannouer sued, alleging she had been fired because she was pregnant.

As evidence, she pointed to her supervisor’s questions about her future family plans. The court ruled that the supervisor’s inquiries—coupled with the sudden discharge so soon after her pregnancy announcement and the fact that the company didn’t warn her about her supposed poor work before she announced her pregnancy—were enough to send her case to trial. (Cocannouer v. Cadence Contract Services, No. A-08-CA-099 WD TX, 2009)

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