Here’s something every pregnant, working mom needs to know: That note from your OB-GYN to your employer could get you fired.
Sorry! I know! But hang tough, like most things there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle this tricky transaction.
An article published Obstetrics and Gynecology written by five doctors and a lawyer warns that the wrong note from your OB-GYN to your employer about work restrictions could backfire. Big time.
Sure, your doctor is happy to write a note telling your employer you have all sorts of work restrictions, even if those restrictions are overly cautious or pre-emptive. But these doctor’s notes and restrictions could come across to employers as a certified statement that you can’t perform your job duties, which is a great excuse to fire you or force you to go on unpaid leave until you can return to your normal job duties.
In fact, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of the cases they investigated related to pregnancy 70 percent of those dealt with a female employee being fired for alleged pregnancy discrimination. And the wrong doctor’s note can have a lot to do with a pregnant employee being fired, according to the experts.
“We can do harm if we are not careful when writing these notes for patients,” Dr. Rebecca Jackson, the article’s author and the chief of obstetrics and gynecology at San Francisco General Hospital told the New York Times.
So what can you do to make sure that note from your OB-GYN doesn’t get you fired?
1. Talk to your doctor about what your job duties are and use the note to highlight the work you can continue to do, rather than focusing solely on your restrictions.
2. Understand how much time off and leave you’re entitled to and realize that if the restrictions outlined in your doctor’s note exceed that leave, you could be penalized.
3. Consider the timing of when you deliver the note to your employer. Right in the middle of the busiest time of the month or day might make your manager more inclined to let you go and find someone else.
4. Don’t ask for a doctor’s note because you’re tired and uncomfortable in your third trimester. Experts warn these notes could be denied or worse, you could lose your gig because you couldn’t perform your job duties prior to delivery.
5. Be very wary of employers who ask you to go to the doctor for a note. Sharon Gustafson, an employment attorney, says in her 24 years of practice she’s seen employers “solicit restrictions” from pregnant employees and then turn around and use the note as grounds for dismissal. “Oh you can’t do your job?” Gustafson says about how the employers can quickly turn the tables on a pregnant employee. “Then I don’t have a job for you.”
Until women demand fairer treatment in the workplace, it’s up to us to be smart enough not to give employers additional ammunition to discriminate against us. Be smart and work with your OB-GYN closely to craft a letter to your employer that highlights your strengths and shows them why you’re still valuable, and doesn’t open you up to getting fired at the worst possible time — right before you have a new baby.
Anyone else need a nap and a Tylenol after all this? It’s hard out there for a pregnant mama!