This article originally appeared on Working Mother, and the author wishes to remain Anonymous.
It was Monday morning, and I couldn’t hide my growing bump any longer. My boss was visiting from our corporate headquarters, so I decided it was the day to tell her I was pregnant. Five days later, I was asked to go to lunch near our Manhattan office.
During that two-hour meal in a crowded restaurant, my boss laid me off. (Clearly, she did not consult with HR about proper protocol for giving someone the axe.) To say I was stunned is an understatement. I was too shocked to fully process the news, but I had no choice but to go into logistics mode. I asked when my last day would be; if there would be a severance; if I’d still receive unvested stock options; or if I’d get the bonus that I’d earned. I even remembered to ask about unused vacation days. The whole experience felt surreal to me.
Despite my calm disposition and lack of visible emotion, which my boss was impressed with, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking, “No one is going to hire my pregnant ass right now,” “Am I going to be able to find a job after maternity leave?” and finally, “How am I going to focus on my newborn while worrying about finding a new job?” It was this last bothersome question that made me tear up at the table before I quickly pushed the thought aside.
The days following the news, I went through what felt like the stages of grief. Friday, I was in denial and even went into the office to wrap up some work after that memorable lunch. Saturday and Sunday, I was angry and Googling pregnancy discrimination lawsuits. I had consistently stellar performance reviews; how could I not be suspicious that I was losing my job for being four months pregnant? Monday, I started getting choked up when I told my friends and a couple of colleagues the news. And by Wednesday, I had accepted that I was going to be okay … at least I hoped.
Friends who knew my situation suggested I sue the company. After all, it’s illegal to lay off a pregnant person, right? Well, I learned there was a larger layoff. The company’s New York office was shutting down, and I was part of the 10 percent of employees affected by the company’s reorganization and cost-reduction strategy. I quickly learned that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act says that it is legal to lay off someone who’s pregnant, as long as it’s not because that someone is pregnant.
Having never been let go from a job, I tapped into my HR and lawyer friends for advice on the next steps I should take. Anyone can easily Google what to do when faced with unemployment, but one major piece of advice I have to share is to remain professional.
Even though your instinct might be to fire off a nasty Glassdoor review and tell management how you really feel about them (not gonna lie, I’m still tempted to do this), the saying “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is never truer than during a layoff. If you’re in the middle of negotiating a separation agreement, remaining professional and even friendly (as much as you can stomach it) gives you a better chance of securing a severance package to your liking. That said, be persistent in pushing for what you deserve and more, but don’t get nasty. I saw this first-hand when colleagues who took a much more aggressive, less amicable approach than I did ended up with less-than-appealing severance agreements, and burned bridges in the process.
All of the feelings I had during that memorable lunch still ring true, especially since I’ve spoken with a few recruiters who immediately lose interest once I tell them I’m pregnant. And there are days—pretty much every day—when I am still pissed at my company for what they did. But there’s one silver lining: I get to spend extra time with my toddler before my second child arrives and our family dynamic changes forever. After months of having less than an hour per day with him each evening after work, that’s time I am going to deeply embrace, even if it means I’m more exhausted than I ever was as a working mom.
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