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Apparently You Can Get Laid Off While Pregnant

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I started to get an uneasy feeling at work sometime back in September, when things began changing in my department and I found myself increasingly excluded from meetings, decisions, and major projects. But every time I confided in a family member, friend, or coworker, the response was the same: “You’re pregnant; they can’t get rid of you now.”

I tried taking comfort in the legal protections offered to pregnant women but I knew deep down that something was brewing nonetheless. And sure enough, one day I was called into an HR meeting and informed that my position was being phased out and redistributed among other employees.

I can’t say the news was particularly shocking, but I still walked out of that meeting feeling angry and betrayed. After all, I’d been a dedicated employee for over four years.

And when I called my husband to immediately tell him the news, he was completely outraged. In fact, the general sentiment among my family members, friends, and coworkers was something along the lines of, “How could they do that to you?”

My company claims that my pregnancy played no role in the decision, but I find that hard to believe. Still, the end result is that I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy and unemployed.

Now, had this happened a year ago, I would’ve dusted off my resume, reached out to contacts, and jumped into the interview process with a fair degree of confidence. At the risk of sounding conceited, I know I’m good at what I do, and I have a number of references I can enlist to back me up. But at this point, I’m pretty much resigned to being unemployed for the foreseeable future.

Sure, I can sell myself on paper and over the phone to get interviews. But the second I walk into a face-to-face meeting, the interviewer is going to take one look at my very obvious bump and make a decision on the spot. And frankly, I wouldn’t even blame a company for turning me down for being pregnant, even though that’s technically illegal. I’m due in January, so even if someone were to hire me tomorrow, I’d likely be out on maternity leave before even having the time to get up to speed.

I’m trying not to worry too much and instead focus on my family and my health. Thankfully, as a writer and editor, I do have the opportunity to try to take on some short-term freelance projects for the time being. But losing my full-time salary isn’t exactly going to work wonders for our family budget. And there are other ramifications too—like having to pull my son out of the daycare center he loves because I can’t justify the cost if I don’t have a salary against which to offset it.

I actually know several women who have been laid off while out on maternity leave, but so far I’ve yet to come across anyone who’s lost a job while still pregnant. So I ask: Has anyone else out there had a similar experience? And if so, what did you do?


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