Can Pregnancy Hinder a Job Search?

Q: I am 35 years old and married with two children. I graduated from law school and relocated to another state. Directly after my move I discovered that I was pregnant. I have taken the bar exam. My problem is that I have not yet secured employment. I am concerned about interviewing for jobs while pregnant because of my lack of confidence at being hired if employers know of my situation. I am in my fourth month and beginning to show. What advice can you give me? Should I wait until after I have given birth to pursue employment? How likely is it that employers would hire a currently pregnant woman? What are my legal options? Thanks in advance for any advice you have to offer.

A: The unfortunate practical truth is that it may be difficult to find employment while pregnant. An employer who decided not to hire you because of your pregnancy could be guilty of discrimination. However, this kind of discrimination can be difficult to identify or prove. Rather than expose their discrimination, potential employers may simply decline to hire you without providing a reason. If clear discrimination occurred you could sue. Unfortunately many employers will pass on an applicant that is likely to require leave in the near future and whether they say so or not, this may be a reason that they would decline to hire you. Having refused employment when you were pregnant, the same company or law firm might refuse you again upon re-application simply to conceal their previous discrimination.

On the other hand, applying for positions while pregnant may be the best choice for you if you are seeking employment with a firm whose expectations encourage you to maintain a healthy personal life. An employer that hires you when you are obviously pregnant is likely to be understanding if you need to take an absence later for family reasons, and the ones that don't hire you because you are pregnant obviously do not share your goals and values. They are likely to have more flexible scheduling needs or family related benefits. You can improve your chances of success by researching companies and firms carefully. Your network of contacts might be able to tell you which firms have the most family-friendly environments.

If you don't know much about the local market you might also choose to postpone beginning application processes altogether until after you give birth and instead spend the remaining months of your pregnancy networking as much as possible. Attending bar events, volunteering in your area of practice, or improving your online network can help you prepare to enter the local job market well-prepared and with fewer distractions. Since you are new to the practice of law this could be a valuable opportunity to try out different kinds of legal practice and add some experience to your resume before you present yourself to a potential employer.

However you proceed, stay healthy and positive. A recent move, new career, and a baby are a lot to manage.