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Archive for Monday, February 18, 2008

Honesty the best policy

February 18, 2008

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Q: I worked for five months for a manufacturing firm as an executive assistant. It was a temp-to-hire position through a recruitment agency. After three months, my supervisor told me that they were interested in hiring me. I did not tell them I was expecting a baby. I knew they noticed my belly getting big, but when my supervisor asked, "Are you expecting?" I just smiled. I did not formally tell them until two months before my due date. They said I was welcome to come back. Four weeks after the delivery, I called my agency. They told me that the company's human resources representative had said that the temporary person they had hired was working out well, and that they did not need my services. I was shocked. Is this unfair labor practice? - Greta

Dale: Well, it sounds unfair to me. However, I know that what you're really asking is, is it illegal? J.T. and I get into trouble when we offer legal opinions, but from what you've told us, you were always a "temp," and all you have to go on are a vague promise and your suspicions.

J.T.: I wonder what would have happened if you'd been more candid with your supervisors. It's possible that when you didn't respond to the inquiry about your pregnancy, they felt disappointed that you didn't feel you had a good enough relationship with them to trust them with the truth.

Dale: I can sympathize with women who consider their pregnancy to be nobody's business. But I also sympathize with businesses trying to plan their staffing. I know one executive who hired a replacement for an assistant on maternity leave, only to discover that the replacement was pregnant and wanted maternity leave. He put in considerable effort to find spots for both of them when they returned; then, after the leaves were up, both announced they weren't coming back. I bring that up as a way of illustrating that managers know that there's a percentage of women who decide not to return after maternity leave. So, if J.T.'s theory is correct, your former supervisors felt no emotional connection to you, and so they made new plans.

J.T.: Going forward, I suggest you reach out to a different staffing company, just in case there are any lingering doubts at the old agency. Start with a clean slate at a new place, and I'll bet they find you a spot with a company that's glad to have you on its permanent staff.

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