When should I tell my employer that I am pregnant?

Question:

I recently learned that I'm pregnant. I'm only in my second month, and I've had several miscarriages in the past. I don't plan to tell anyone that I'm expecting until I'm well into my second trimester, to avoid painful conversations and keep myself on an even emotional keel. But a friend of mine told me that I have to tell my boss as soon as I know for sure that I'm pregnant. Is this true?

Answer:

No, you are not legally required to tell your employer that you're pregnant as soon as you know about it or at any particular point in your pregnancy. Most employees keep their condition to themselves until they are at least through the first trimester. When to tell your employer is more of a personal choice than a legal one.

That said, you will need to say something at some point, once you feel comfortable doing so. You'll probably want to take time off for the birth and afterwards. You may also need time off during your pregnancy, for prenatal care or other medical needs. And, assuming you plan to return to work after having your baby, you'll want to maintain positive relationships with your manager and coworkers throughout your leave.

Many employees have "the talk" with their managers at some point in the second trimester, usually around the time when they are beginning to show. This strategy gives you and your manager plenty of time to discuss your time off, how your work will be handled while you're gone, and your plans to return to work, without putting you in a position of revealing personal information before you are ready.

Some employees are anxious about revealing their pregnancies because they fear they will be fired or treated differently at work. By law, however, employers may not discriminate against an employee because she is pregnant. If your employer has at least 50 employees, you may be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of leave for pregnancy and childbirth under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Your state may give you additional rights to time off for pregnancy and parenting. (See State Family and Medical Leave Laws to learn more.)

Of course, not every employer honors its legal obligations. If your employer breaks the law, however, you will at least have legal remedies. For more information, see Wrongfully Terminated for Being Pregnant.

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