Kristian Denny Todd found out she was pregnant with her first child in the fall of 2003 -- about the same time she was interviewing for a new job.
Todd faced a dilemma many women face: how to navigate a job search when motherhood, plus a need for maternity leave, is imminent.
Further complicating Todd's situation was that her prospective job was with a political consulting firm, and her baby was due in May 2004, just as the presidential election would be heating up. Todd decided the fair thing was to be upfront.
"It was going to be a big year for them. I thought I should be very honest about the time I needed for leave," she said.
Her strategy worked well. When she felt a job offer was probable, on her third or fourth round of interviews, she told interviewers of her pregnancy and her due date. She hoped for seven weeks of maternity leave, she told them, and said she would be around for most of the "crunch time." She was hired a week later.
By comparison, a headhunting firm Todd had been interviewing with said it wanted someone who was "able to hit the ground running," Todd said.
Although it's illegal to discriminate based on pregnancy, there are still many cases of women fired or not hired for positions because of pending motherhood. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 4,649 charges of pregnancy-based discrimination in fiscal 2003. The commission resolved 4,847 charges and recovered $12.4 million in monetary benefits for the charging parties that year.
"For highly skilled women, it is changing," said Jodi Grant, director of work and family programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families, formerly the Women's Legal Defense Fund. "But for a lot of women, there is still discrimination out there."
The Family and Medical Leave Act allows 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees who have been with an employer of 50 or more people for at least a year. Some states have more generous laws that trump the federal law.
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