Job Hunting Down Under

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Kirsten Lees

A friend of mine went for a job interview recently. She's the other side of 40 (her first big mistake) but since she's still got all her teeth and her not-inconsiderable brain is in excellent working order -- not to mention her award-studded resume, including international work experience -- she thought she'd get a good hearing.

The interview lasted an hour. The questions were probing -- no problem -- but the line of questioning became increasingly personal. My friend did her best to answer honestly and to stay polite. But, she told me later, the interviewer got further and further away from work issues and kept trying to find out about her family situation. She didn't know whether to get cross or to just go with it.The interviewer finally got to what he apparently wanted to know: that she had two young children.

He then wrote the only note that he took during the interview on the top of the first page of her resume. It read: 2 children. And he underlined it twice.

Should this surprise me? No. But it is so disappointing. The company concerned is among the world's largest employers. It's won family-friendly and women-friendly awards across continents. It is a thought-leader and a global role model. It issues enough work-life balance policies and press releases to paper a town full of dunnies (crikey! I think you call them "bathrooms" in the States).

Perhaps it meant nothing. Perhaps it meant he was keen to give my friend a job and was going to give her an extra couple of holidays each year to celebrate the children's birthdays. Or perhaps it is just another reminder that rhetoric, policies and press releases haven't changed the reality of job hunting for working parents as much as we like to think.

What do you think?

Kirsten Lees is author of Let Go of My Leg! a book about the business and personal experiences of more than 70 working moms. She lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and three children.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  December 5, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
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Comments

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I rejoined the OTH working work as my daughter entered K and was lucky, lucky to find a wonderful part-time job in academia. That being said a friend went back around the same time and has to fight 5pm meetings and folks asking what time she can be in on Saturday so they can go over the marketing for their latest project. She is slowly realizing that she might have to quit because no matter how hard she works MF, she can never compete with a 27 year old, no kids and unlimited energy/ability to work whenever, no matter that going over a project on Sat. is not necessary. Maybe she could have forseen this but she turned down "less" family friendly companies based upon what she thought was a better fit due to company policies. Words sometimes are only worth the paper they are printed on.

Posted by: NC mom | December 5, 2006 8:07 AM

Kirsten, One question: Did your friend get the job?

Posted by: cmac | December 5, 2006 8:07 AM

When I was pregnant, I was job hunting because we had just moved to the DC area. I was paranoid that being pregnant would be the reason I didn't get a job. In fact, I was so paranoid, that I simply stopped looking and decided to wait until after I had the baby to resume my search.

Today's blog hit on my every fear. I re-entered the workforce as a freelancer working from home. I haven't been brave enough to venture further. Now I wonder -- can I, with my one child and hopes for a second, get back into the working world as long as attitudes like this are still out there?

OK, so maybe the interviewer was a parent looking for potential playdates for his own kids. Somehow, I doubt it. I'd like to believe, though, that perhaps he is one of a dying breed.

Posted by: writing mommy | December 5, 2006 8:15 AM

I went to a recent Mothers at Work brownbag lunch where we discussed hiring and workplace discrimination against women, pregnant, childless, mothers, etc.

It was amazing how many stories women had about facing subtle and overt prejudice at work. This kind of discrimination is against the law. Individuals can sue employers (and potential employers) if they did not get jobs or were fired from jobs soley because they are women or mothers.

Fortunately, not every employer discriminates! Don't give up if you really want to work, and don't stay in a bad situation even if you need to.

A good resource if you have been discriminated against is The Center for WorkLife Law at University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. The Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy group. The link is http://www.uchastings.edu/?pid=3624. The phone number is 415.565.4640

Posted by: Leslie | December 5, 2006 8:23 AM

cmac, no she didn't. She is second interviewing with another company right now. Fingers crossed!

writing mummy - check out my book - it is written for women who are thinking the same as you. Yes, you can go back - and you can carve yourself a dynamic and rewarding career. You might want to avoid companies where the number of children you have or you plan to have comes up at the interview stage - of course. Its not legal but it happens. Usually, they are not the sort of environments that working parents (= committed, smart, experienced employees) are likely to thrive in. Lets take our skills and our business where they are valued!

Posted by: Kirsten | December 5, 2006 8:25 AM

This also echos one thing I often notice and hear - more important than the company policy is the individual manager. I hope your friend found a different job, because I suspect that manager would not be sympathetic to the flexibility your friend needs even if she was the best performer in the company

Posted by: divorced mom of 1 | December 5, 2006 8:26 AM

Will probably get flamed for this - but, if a job has crazy hours and you know you can't be available, is it really discrimination to not hire you?

Posted by: me | December 5, 2006 8:29 AM

"Will probably get flamed for this - but, if a job has crazy hours and you know you can't be available, is it really discrimination to not hire you?"

No. But when you presume your applicant won't be able to work those hours just because (a) she's female, and (b) she has two kids, that is.

Posted by: Laura | December 5, 2006 8:35 AM

Laura, I think my friend would have felt better if the interviewer had written anything else down - but to listen to an hour's worth of questions and answers and to write down only the number of children she had made her feel v v v uncomfortable. He didn't jot down any of her discussion of her experience and achievements. But perhaps he felt her cv said it all. I don't know.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 8:39 AM

I think you missed my point...it has been stated by many here that they cannot, because of family obligations, work the same crazy hours as a single person with no kids. Yet if you ask someone that, it's "discrimination".

Posted by: to Laura | December 5, 2006 8:43 AM

It is not discrimination to ask if you you work weekends and evenings it is only discrimination when you presume because I am a mother that I can't (& "to laura" this is what laura said). And unfortuneatley many managers ask if I have children and then make the assumption (illegal) as opposed to asking directly about non 9-5 hours(legal, especially if asked of all candidates regardless of age or gender or parenthood status).

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | December 5, 2006 8:49 AM

"I think you missed my point...it has been stated by many here that they cannot, because of family obligations, work the same crazy hours as a single person with no kids. Yet if you ask someone that, it's "discrimination"."

Actually what was said was that if an employer assumes that someone can't work crazy hours based on their gender or whether they are a parent or not, that is discrimination.

Posted by: misunderstood | December 5, 2006 8:50 AM

I agree with Laura. I was recently passed up for a promotion because "I am not a team player." How did they come to that conclusion? Basically, my stay-at-home husband graduated from college and got a full time job. Therefore, I obviously would no longer be available to work late or travel. I guess I should ask them to start sending me emails to remind me to breathe since they obviously know me so very well.

Posted by: Been there | December 5, 2006 8:53 AM

If the job has crazy hours, say so and ask the candidates if they can be available crazy hours.

WHY you can't be available crazy hours is irrelevant and discriminatory - making assumptions about someone's work availability because of their family status is the exact definition of discrimination.

Posted by: to me: | December 5, 2006 9:00 AM

Ah - I can see this is going to quickly devolve into one of those child-free vs parent work issues again today. (As always - I'm child-free, but I see this as family rights, since single/child-free people may have adult family members that have a lot of needs, too.)

I'm going to stay out of that sphere and just ask the guest blogger (who appears to be reading the board) a hopefully relevant question: what are the discrimination laws like in Australia?

In the US, an interviewing manager or HR rep could get into serious trouble for blatantly asking about personal/family issues (well, in theory). Is it the same Down Under? In other words, would she have any place to file a complaint? It would seem that if the interviewing manager only bothered noting her parental status as opposed to her professional status she should be able to file a complaint against the company. (Whether or not she chose to is another matter...)

Posted by: Chasmosaur | December 5, 2006 9:03 AM

I work for a state highway agency, and we have regular classes on how to interview.

One of the questions we are told we CANNOT ask (because it is illegal) is "do you have children?". It is illegal to discriminate (or even give the impression of discrimination) based on whether someone has children or not, or whether they intend to have children or not.

There are ways to get the same answer, however. If the job requires overnight trips, ask the interviewee if that could be a problem. If it requires working late or overtime or on the weekends, ask if that could be a problem. Also, if the candidate mentions they have children, then all bets are off and you can ask away, but you CANNOT ask as the interviewer!

ISTM that if she wanted to push the issue, your friend could file a discrimination lawsuit against the company for failure to hire, especially if her credentials are better than the person that got the job.

Posted by: John | December 5, 2006 9:06 AM

It is discrimination to assume that because someone is a woman with kids that she can't work crazy hours or weekends.

There are many moms who can/want to/need to put in insane hours for a job.

There are many non-moms who won't for various reasons.

The assumptions based on gender (or parental status, or race, or age, or religion) is the illegal part.

Posted by: Leslie | December 5, 2006 9:07 AM

I just wonder how many men are asked those questions? Have any of the men on the board been asked questions about children?

I have to say though that I would rather someone like the guy who interviewed your friend not hire me than hire me. I don't want to work for someone who doesn't respect that people have lives outside of work.

Posted by: scarry | December 5, 2006 9:13 AM

I interviewed for a new job and was 6 months pregnant. I was open about being pregnant since it a ummmm a bit difficult to hide. The problem I had was during the reference call my current manager told the caller I was pregnant. I asked her what other personal medical information she felt the need to reveal. Are current employers allowed to reveal medical information to potential employers? Any suggestions on how y'all would handle this situation?

Posted by: waiting... | December 5, 2006 9:13 AM

Many non-parents don't want to work crazy hours! I don't have children and will only work crazy hours for deadlines, if absolutely needed. While I love my job, it isn't the only thing in my life.

Posted by: 8 hours please | December 5, 2006 9:18 AM

It is not surprising to find hiring managers who will discriminate based on family status. What is deplorable is that in about twenty states in the US, it is perfectly legal to discriminate in hiring based on marital status and parenthood.
Here is the story that recently aired on NPR.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6520840

Posted by: n | December 5, 2006 9:20 AM

I second what 8 hours says..I think many people are looking for work/life balance for a variety of reasons. I worked hard in my 20s and 30s, now I want to slow down a bit. I still work about 50 hours a week, but that is down from what I used to put in!

Posted by: Missicat | December 5, 2006 9:21 AM

I suggest everyone read the latest issue of Business Week. Amazing article on Best Buy's NEW flextime, based on results, not simply being there in the flesh. Their program isn't just for parents, either. Great article.
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/toc/06_50/B4013magazine.htm

Posted by: SAHMbacktowork | December 5, 2006 9:23 AM

waiting, I don't think that they are allowed to reveal any medical information.

Posted by: scarry | December 5, 2006 9:23 AM

Discrimination occurs on many levels, conscious and unconscious. When you have 3 equally-qualified candidates on paper, and only a few hours of interviewing, how can you really make the right decision? I've seen people lose out because they didn't wear a business suit. Is that discrimination? Once a fellow volunteered information that his family is the most important thing. He lost out too. There was another guy that could really talk up his paper accomplishments. He's now a senior manager. There was a guy with long hair who didn't get the job. The point is, hiring decisions are extremely subjective, and it is very difficult to prove discrimination. The smart person is one who can turn a possible negative into a positive.

There are ways to ask a question that gets to the point w/o appearing discriminatory. For example, "Are you able to work 60hrs/week when the project requires it? Long hours, evening hours? Can we count on you to be available those times?" or "This job requires travel 50% of the time. On the road you may be working 12hours a day and you'll be away for 5-10 days once a month". Those are job requirements that a parent with 2 kids might not be able to handle at this point in time. I always ask those questions instead of coming to my own conclusions based on their family makeup. A good HR dept usually provides the proper training for interviewers.

Was the interviewer properly trained by the company? Many times a manager will pull a seasoned worker to fill an interview slot. That worker might not have been trained to do proper interviews. It could have been an aberration, not a sweeping company policy that we should get all worked up about. What Kirsten is implying is that this big multinational family-free company is implementing a policy to discriminate against a 40yr old woman with 2 children. Is that really the case here?

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 5, 2006 9:24 AM

To jump into the 'what can employers ask' debate, they can pretty much ask anything they want AS LONG as it's job-related.

To expand on what many have said, the interviewer should have just said something like, "This job involves regular long hours and the occasional Saturday. Would you be able to accomodate that?" Then the interviewee can answer yes or no. If the employer than is dumb enough to ask why, well, then yes, s/he's an idiot and you wouldn't want to work for them anyway. A 'yes' or 'no' should suffice because it answers the work-related question.

However, the interviewer should never assume anything about a candidate without asking them -- that goes without saying. Heck, I don't have any kids and I still wouldn't take a job with late hours and weekend-work.

As a juxtaposition to the original issue, the interviewer would make a dire mistake assuming I WOULD work in such a position because I DON'T have kids.

Posted by: ilc | December 5, 2006 9:24 AM

Regarding pregnancy and childbirth, I have been a manager over 10yrs and I have personally seen over 10 women get a job just so they can get maternity benefits (12wks paid leave at 60% pay) and then quit after that 12wks. They are usually with the company for <2yrs. Word on the street is our company is THE place for women to have children because we give such good benefits. some managers have the experience to spot these women during the interview but hire them anyway because we don't want any lawsuits. Some women actually come out and say, "I want to work here because of the great maternity benefits". They are usually already pregnant and will quit within 1 yr.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 5, 2006 9:33 AM

In the US, isn't it illegal to ask someone about their marital, spouse employment situation, or children in an interview. Obviously they can just tell gender but I thought the other topics were a big NO NO, in the US. Sucks in Australia.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 5, 2006 9:43 AM

I have to agree with 8 hrs. I am married, but don't have children, but I don't want to work 14 hour days anymore than the next person.
Here's a question for anyone who might know, what IS illegal to ask during an interview? Is it illegal to ask about someone's marital status, political leanings etc.
I've never had any problems in any job interviews, but some of my friends have and I was just wondering what is a "right" question and what is a "wrong" question.

Posted by: Melissa | December 5, 2006 9:45 AM

Mr. Honda - I can sympathize with that side of things as well. I'm a woman is currently a new working professional and wants to have kids in the next few years, but I didn't take this job intending to leave it right away (or at all - can't predict what will happen in the future). But as a manager it has got to be frustrating to think some people would be willing to cry discrimination when they actually might be trying to 'game' the system to an extent.

Posted by: Both sides | December 5, 2006 9:47 AM

Hi Melissa,

The questions get tricky. For instance, you cannot ask a candidate where they're from (race, origin, or cultural background), BUT, if the job requires the person to, for instance, speak Arabic, then you can ask if they speak it. You can't ask HOW they know how to speak it (again, nothing about their family, race, etc.), but you can ask if they're able to.

But, again, you (as the employer) have to have evidence that the need for a candidate to speak Arabic is a business necessity.

Posted by: ilc | December 5, 2006 9:55 AM

Wow Mr. Honda! As a woman, and also currently pregnant, I have never heard of any company as providing such great maternity benefits. Clearly, those women seem to have relaxed ethical standards or perhaps they were unable to predict their future situation. I only interview for jobs I am interested in (luxury of a more advanced career state) and at this point would take a new position knowing I would probably qualify for NO maternity benefits if the position was interesting and the company product was worthy.

Please don't assume all women are the same. Because I will promise not to think all men/employers are total greedy b@st@rds.

Posted by: waiting... | December 5, 2006 9:58 AM

To be honest Mr Honda, is that really unethical. On the flip side, companies will lay off anyone at the drop of a hat when it is convenient to them. So the worker is just looking out for their best interest. In all fairness, do we really "owe" an employer any more then 1 month notice and in some professional jobs more then 2 or 3 months notice. Stuff happens, life happens, and in the end the company will screw you if they have to. So they should be prepared to take it as well. The old company loyalty went out when companies stopped taking care of their employees.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 5, 2006 10:03 AM

I have to ask the blogger how's a ex-pat in the States supposed to work after staying up until 3 a.m. to watch Day 5 of the cricket in Adelaide? The kids were up for school three hours later. Crikey!

Posted by: Ashes Test | December 5, 2006 10:04 AM

Actually, Mr. Honda you are refering to short term disability, which most companies offer. Short term disability is nice UNLESS you have a complicated pregnancy requiring bed rest.

I have discovered corporate America and pregnancy are difficult bed fellows. Feminism still has a long way to go in helping to solve it but because it doesn't affect all women, I doubt it will ever be high on the agenda. So pregnant women are left out in the cold to "suck it up" and move on.

Posted by: waiting... | December 5, 2006 10:07 AM

Mr. Honda,

So women are finally learning how to work the system that has exploited them for so long.

I say, "You go, girls!" It's about time that women manipulate the corporate environment to their benefit -- men have been doing it forever.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 10:09 AM

Just wanted you all to know that my wife sent me an email this morning telling me that her employer conscripted her to work on Christmas day. She is already schedualed to work Sunday evening, Christmas Eve, but won't be receiving the holiday benefits as they will be doled out to thos who work the previous Friday, Dec 22.

Isn't it nice to know that every company doesn't discriminate for or against mothers with children?

Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 5, 2006 10:14 AM

father of 4 - that does suck, but I have a question - does she get stuck with that schedule every year, or do folks take turns?

Posted by: me | December 5, 2006 10:18 AM

Interesting topic, becuase while interviewing I did notice a subtile discrimination around parents vs. single young people. I did not even bother to interview while pregnant, coming back to the states 7 months along I decided to live off of student loans and finish my masters.

I am 30 and when I got my last two jobs they asked me what I did during that year I was not working and I was able to say - grad school. though when starting work I explained to my supervisor that I was a single mother of a small child - both looked at me like I tricked them or something (though did not say anything). Like they were expecting me to be young and single to work 60 hours a week, and I came to them with baggage that allowed me to work on a 8-5 schedule - no matter what!
I was also not considered for a few trips and opportinites due to "my family situation" and their attempt to be sensistive to it by assuming that I could not go.

I thought I got smart with this second job that I started by finding a place with good family benefits and when interviewing saw that my future colleagues all had their kids art/photos on their walls... though when I told my boss that I was a single mother she was reluctant to allow me to do compressed work week, and was actually waiting at me desk several times to see if I'd come in on time. AND I had to stay home one day because my daughter was sick and she sent an email to all of my senior colleages asking if I had someone to take care of the child the next day because I had a meeting she thought I should attend - essentially outing me and putting me on a mommy track!! And this is a woman with a child!

Posted by: single mom | December 5, 2006 10:21 AM

I haven't read all the comments - just the article. It is illegal to ask personal questions like these in an interview. A company of that size and repute should train its managers better. And someone over 40 who has been interviewed should know their rights, and should have politely refused to answer those questions.

Posted by: HR Manager | December 5, 2006 10:22 AM

Father of 4

Your wife should check with her union.

Many nurses work on holidays; your wife knew that when she signed up.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 10:22 AM

that does suck, does she get stuck doing this every year?

Posted by: scarry | December 5, 2006 10:22 AM

What I have stated is a a matter of fact based on my personal experience. If you read carefully, I have placed no value judgment on the actions of the employer or employee. HR sends us the guidelines and we follow the company policy.

One thing I will say is this: it costs the company plenty of money to train up an employee, and when he or she quits unexpectedly in 1yr, it hurts all the employees. Again, this is a matter of fact.

Whether the women are "gaming" the system or striking back after years of injustice is for you to decide. I just follow the HR rules and keep hiring 'em if they are qualified to do the job.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 5, 2006 10:22 AM

Interesting topic, becuase while interviewing I did notice a subtile discrimination around parents vs. single young people. I did not even bother to interview while pregnant, coming back to the states 7 months along I decided to live off of student loans and finish my masters.

I am 30 and when I got my last two jobs they asked me what I did during that year I was not working and I was able to say - grad school. though when starting work I explained to my supervisor that I was a single mother of a small child - both looked at me like I tricked them or something (though did not say anything). Like they were expecting me to be young and single to work 60 hours a week, and I came to them with baggage that allowed me to work on a 8-5 schedule - no matter what!
I was also not considered for a few trips and opportinites due to "my family situation" and their attempt to be sensistive to it by assuming that I could not go.

I thought I got smart with this second job that I started by finding a place with good family benefits and when interviewing saw that my future colleagues all had their kids art/photos on their walls... though when I told my boss that I was a single mother she was reluctant to allow me to do compressed work week, and was actually waiting at me desk several times to see if I'd come in on time. AND I had to stay home one day because my daughter was sick and she sent an email to all of my senior colleages asking if I had someone to take care of the child the next day because I had a meeting she thought I should attend - essentially outing me and putting me on a mommy track!! And this is a woman with a child!

Posted by: single mom | December 5, 2006 10:23 AM

I don't think it should be illegal to ask whether one is married and/or has children in an interview. It is relevant to a lot of job criteria separate and apart from one's ability to work on weekends. It also does not mean the answer will result in discrimination. If those of you militant mommies who argued in the "Are Parents Better Employees?" blog last week really believed your arguments, you would agree with me.

Posted by: catmommy | December 5, 2006 10:25 AM

To HR Manager: we don't know if the interviewer was a trained manager or just a worker pulled in to fill an interview slot. That was my point earlier. I seriously don't think that the company trained its managers to ask such questions and underline "2 children". It's probably a rogue interviewer.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | December 5, 2006 10:25 AM

It sounds like a maternity benefit, not short-term disability since it is for 12 weeks. Childbirth-related disability is 6 weeks for regular delivery and 8 weeks for C-section.

Mr Honda, maybe the company can offer this benefit to those with 2 years service. It could be advanced to those with less than 2 years service, and if they don't return to work and work long enough to gain the 2 years service, then they would be liable to repay the maternity benefit.

This would be similar to orthodontia coverage in many dental plans which only cover orthodontia if someone has been in the plan for 2 years.

Posted by: to waiting... | December 5, 2006 10:26 AM

Hey SAHMbacktowork, that article about Best Buy's new program is absolutely fascinating. I just sent it to my boss and the director of HR.

Interesting discussion. In my experience, just because you have children doesn't mean you're going to present problems in terms of attendance, tardiness, etc. One of my worst ever employees had no kids but was the world's biggest hypochondriac who had also scores of rather distant relatives (who were constantly at death's door or dying and required her attendance at bedside or funeral half the continent away). So often, I find it's the few who wreak havoc for the many . . .

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 5, 2006 10:26 AM

About two years ago a friend of mine (who was 27 or 28 at the time) interviewed with a company for a research-oriented position. She was basically offered the position, but the guy interviewing her also wanted her to promise not to have kids during the following two years. She wasn't willing to make such a commitment. And although we figured that what he did was likely illegal, it didn't really matter. She didn't want to work for someone like that anyway.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 10:26 AM

Mr. Honda, how would your company feel about changing its benefits policy to provide that benefit only to employees who have already been with the company for at least one year? That is similar to qualifier for Family and Medical Leave Act leave -- 1 year at a particular job.

I remember looking for a job when I was pregnant with my first child (my employer at that time laid me off about two weeks after I announced I was pregnant). One interviewer stated that the company needed someone to "hit the ground running." So I knew I wasn't going to get that job, and that the interview found a neat excuse for not hiring me. I wasn't thrilled, but found it to be a blessing in disguise (our needs were different, basically).

I ended up getting a job when my son was about a month old, and I started working when he was a little over two months.

I once worked with someone who got the job and announced a couple of weeks later that she was six months pregnant. By that time, rumors had already started to circulate about her being pregnant, so she had to come clean pretty quickly. She was a trooper, however, putting in the hours and hanging in there until she gave birth. She still works there. In her case, she needed the job and was grateful for not catching a lot of slack after her announcement.

No employer has asked me about having kids, but interviewers will say, "I don't know if you have kids, but we offer so-and-so benefit." I suppose they were hoping I'd volunteer information. My response to them? "Oh, really? Great!"

Don't forget that HR folks aren't the only ones conducting interviews. Hiring managers and other higher-ups interview after HR, and that's where weird questions often come up. HR may train its staff well, but the managers either don't attend such training or just reject what they have been "taught."

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | December 5, 2006 10:28 AM

To go along with what Mr. Honda said, maybe the HR manager has been soured by negative previous experience. I have worked as a Project Manager at the same company for about 6 years. During that time I've had more child-free co-workers than parent co-workers, but my experiences with 3 individuals (all fathers, btw) have left me a bit wary of having parents in my team.
Person A developed child care issues about 6 weeks after arriving, the solution for which was for him to unilaterally shorten his work day to 10 to 3:30. Repeated counsellings with HR did not help the situation, and he was let go after a couple months of this, having significantly increased the pressure on the rest of the team to complete the project.
Person B, though asked, did not admit during the hiring process that he had a very rigid custody schedule with his ex, and so his ability to travel would be severely limited or, as turned out, non-existant. Again, this caused problems within the team, and the individual was transferred to another project before eventually leaving the company.
Person C, when hired, had an older toddler and a SAH spouse. After their second child arrived, C must now constantly take time off to take a child to the doctor/dentist/etc, without much notice or regard to the work situation. There are months when he is gone all or part of one day per week. As he is our lead programmer, things can get interesting. Unlike with the other 2 parents, however,C is willing to work late/weekends to get the job done, but this can then result in other members, who have been there 9 to 5 to have to work late/weekends.
Mayhap the interviewer in the article has had experiences or feedback that make an applicant being a parent something to be noted. Here, they've been experimenting with trying to match parents with potentially less-time-demanding projects, ones not likely to require travel or go over 9 to 5 on a regular basis. We'll have to see how that goes in the long run, but my team has been happier as a whole (both parent and child-free)with members they all percieve are pulling their own weight.

Posted by: I.T. Land | December 5, 2006 10:28 AM

Wow, singlemom, that's pretty crappy micromanagement. I worked for a boss like that once - I don't have kids, but she micromanaged every tiny thing she could come up with (i.e. asking the guards at the front entrance to call her when I walked in the door so she'd know the second I arrived, watching her phone display to see when my line was lit, announcing to a large group that people would have to be very careful assigning me projects because of a class I was taking outside of work even though I increased my workday by 25% to remove any worries on that front, etc).

Though it's incredibly frustrating, the upside is that people who deal with their employees like that are pretty damned miserable. An inability to limit the extent to which a supervisory role invites/allows this kind of heavy-handed management of the minutiae doesn't really speak well to someone's general sense of confidence and security in their own abilities and position. Cold comfort, but really - they're the ones who suffer.

Posted by: pastryqueen | December 5, 2006 10:31 AM

I'm going to pose a hypothetical question for you. You're a very busy financial manager, and you finally convince your boss to hire an additional person to help you out. You get that person hired, then discover that she's going to be out on maternity leave 5 months from now. How do you feel?

Posted by: RM | December 5, 2006 10:32 AM

Mr. Honda, I agree that there are many different ways that we decide who gets the job. What a lot of people don't understand is that all "discrimination" isn't forbidden (warning: legal tangent ahead). Discrimination is simply drawing a distinction between people based on some observed trait, and it's something we all do every day. You can choose not to hire someone who doesn't wear a suit, or who has long hair -- heck, you can refuse to hire me because I have brown hair. I can question whether that's a good way to run a business (suit, maybe yes, if clients/job demand; hair color, not so much), but it's perfectly legal. Where that discrimination crosses the line is when it involves a protected class, where that "trait" you are observing is inherent and immutable (i.e., race or gender).

On the other hand, there is no question but that employers have the right to hire people who will meet the job demands -- if you ask me if I can travel 50% of the time, and I say no, then you have every right not to give me the job. So you end up in this grey area where stereotypes related to an immutable characteristic, like gender, overlap with legitimate job requirements. The problem comes when people use gender stereotypes to answer their own questions about a candidate's ability to perform those requirements (i.e., "she's a mom, she won't be able to travel").

Frankly, I'm amazed that ANY employers still ask those questions. They're not illegal; you can ask whatever you want. BUT, if you ask a woman about her family, and then she ends up not getting the job, you have laid yourself open to a lawsuit -- even if you made the decision based on completely different factors, it LOOKS like you based it on gender and family status, which means you could end up trying to convince a jury that it wasn't what it looks like. You may well win in the end (proving discrimination is very tough), but who wants to risk the cost and hassle of a lawsuit in the first place? Especially when it's completely unnecessary to finding our whether someone can do the job.

Posted by: Laura | December 5, 2006 10:50 AM

"The assumptions based on gender (or parental status, or race, or age, or religion) is the illegal part."

Actually, parental status is not a protected class in the U.S. Race, age, gender, religion, yes.

Posted by: HR Department | December 5, 2006 10:52 AM

Actually parental status can be a protected. Sex is a protected class under federal law, and if an employer is discriminating against women solely by virtue of their ability to bear children, that is sex discrimination.

Posted by: to HR Department: | December 5, 2006 10:58 AM

I have a suspicion that those of you who complain your employers do not let you travel because you have children would be complaining even louder if your employer required you to travel.

Posted by: catmommy | December 5, 2006 11:00 AM

I just want to chime in on illegal questions in the interview. I have been asked these questions and got the job anyway (only to lose it to discrimination later but that's another story). My approach is to try answer these type of questions in a humorous and off-hand way. No need to offend an interviewer. In fact, pointing to an interviewer that he/she is doing something wrong is a sure way NOT to get to the next stage. And I don't believe that lawsuits and discrimination complaint can advance one's career. However, I agree that there is a lot of discrinination going on. In my experience, the worst offenders are young single WOMEN on a career track, the ones who proundly announce that they will NEVER had "brats" (I am quoting a former colleague).

Posted by: dc working mom | December 5, 2006 11:07 AM

>

I've always wondered, when interviewing, how do you ask about this topic? It seems like asking about it basically tells the interviewer you intend to use it (but that doesn't necessarily mean right away!). But without this information, how can you really know how good the maternity benefits are at Company A vs. Company B?

Oh, and:
>

At my large, ostensibly family-oriented company, you get 4 weeks at full pay before going on short-term disability, and then you're on STD for however long you choose to be out, at 60% pay. (Which I don't know how I'll ever be able to afford) The STD policy makes no distinction between pregnancy/childbirth and other medical conditions, and there is no mention of maternity benefits in our company handbook/benefits materials, leading us all to read between the lines that this is the back-door way of treating it.

Posted by: NY Lurker | December 5, 2006 11:08 AM

To follow up on the interviewing while pregnant thread: it can be done successfully. I applied for a job when I was 8 months pregnant and interviewed 2 weeks before my due date. There were no questions about my condition, only "if you were offered the position, when could you start?" I was very upfront about the expected timeframe, and when I go back to work, it will be to a new job. Some managers are willing to wait for the candidate they want.

Posted by: NewMom | December 5, 2006 11:09 AM

Scarry, and others, my wife, a nurse, is represented by a commercial food worker's union. There is a written policy that determines the pecking order of who works on holidays. I think it is fair. They first request volunteers to sign up for the extra money. then it goes by other things like how long one has been with the company, hours worked, full-time, part-time status... The gender or number of children an employee has is not part of the formula.

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 5, 2006 11:09 AM

I'm chiming in as another poster who doesn't have kids but is still interested in work-life balance. I'm the only child of elderly parents. Eldercare is an issue for me. In fact, eldercare is coming up to be as big an issue with regard to family issues as child care.

I really don't think that as many jobs actually require crazy hours as have them because...because of a talent glut? Because of the workplace culture? At any rate, barring a bottomless pool of twentysomethings cheerfully willing to indenture themselves, most workplaces are going to face work/life balance issues, and not just from parents.

Posted by: Flyonthewall | December 5, 2006 11:14 AM

To the person responding to my post:

Short term disability is 12 weeks at least where I currently work (I know this because I am currently on it). I have never heard of a any employer offering paid maternity leave. Companies make women cobble together vacation, short term and long term disability. If you are aware of any company that provides actual paid maternity leave, please post those company names here so we can celebrate them!

Posted by: waiting..... | December 5, 2006 11:16 AM

I am a father of 3 and I have never been asked how many children I have in an interview. This is ironic because I too will not work excessive hours on evenings or weekends due to the detrimental effects it has on my family. Yet I suppose potential employers assume that I would if asked.

My wife just went through an episode at her work where her supervisor (also female) pried into her personal life with questions about why she needed so much time off to care for our children. They were sick continuously for almost a month when school started. Her supervisor had the audacity to suggest that my wife get a support network of family and friends so she wouldn't need to miss work when the kids get sick. Would that we could. Not everyone has family who lives close by and/or friends who don't work to help out.

My advice to people who experience similar situations is to get another job as soon as possible (my wife just put in her notice), and try to be very conscious of what type of company to apply with. Government agencies, government contractors, and other large companies tend to be much better about respecting the 40 hour work week than do smaller private companies who are struggling to grow and survive.

And, most important, VOTE for political candidates who support labor rights.

Posted by: Sean | December 5, 2006 11:19 AM

To waiting....
HP offers 1 week "free" vacation to fathers for a new baby.
For mothers, there is STD and LTD which will pay 60% for 12wks. She will go on FMLA. Company heavily subsidizes STD and LTD premiums, so the cost to the employee is very minimal. Those who are planning on having a baby will sign up for these coverages in advance.

Posted by: Thierry | December 5, 2006 11:20 AM

cat mommy wrote: "I don't think it should be illegal to ask whether one is married and/or has children in an interview. It is relevant to a lot of job criteria separate and apart from one's ability to work on weekends"

Frankly I can't see how it is at all relevant to any jobs I am aware of or do? It may be relevant how I use benefits, but that is not a job criteria. Cat mommy please give examples.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | December 5, 2006 11:20 AM

Why would you want to advance to the next stage? You alluded to facing discrimination once you started the job. What's the point of getting and starting a job where your status will be held against you?

The interviewing process is wooing phase in an employer-employee relationship. If the boss can't manage to be professional then, I think it forecasts troubled times ahead.

Posted by: To dc working mom | December 5, 2006 11:22 AM

In my business, the threshold question of whether someone "can do the job" is the minimum standard for hiring, e.g., we choose to offer employment from among a pool of candidates who are all capable of doing the job. Our hiring is based on how well someone will do the job and their anticipated longevity. Longevity is a factor of commitment to the geographical are in which our office exists and commitment to be successful in this business over the long-term. Time I invest in training someone is time I could be doing the job faster myself and get home to my family. The only way that training pays off for me is if the trainee remains for at least 4 years, if not longer. So when I am interviewing a candidate, I recommend for hiring candidates who have made life choices that suggest they will be here for awhile. Those choices might be apparent on their resume or might be volunteered during the interview. We don't ask any prohibited questions, but if an applicant is serious about getting the job offer, then he or she is well-advised to volunteer information that suggests he/she has a commitment to this geographical area, that he/she understands the requirements for success in this business -- not the requirements to merely retain his/her employment -- and that he/she has made life choices that indicate the authenticity of those statements. Other industries are different, of course.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 5, 2006 11:22 AM

Sean, if I were your wife's employer, I would start to wonder too....if she is off from work a good part of a month to take care of your kids, I really don't think asking about it would be considered "prying". Do you think "labor rights" = " working when you can fit it into your schedule"? I don't think it qualifies as audicity to wonder when your employee is going to show up to work.

Posted by: Me | December 5, 2006 11:24 AM

This is a little off topic, but I saw the question on Amy Joyce's chat and thought I would put it in here: Are there any lawyers who can comment on whether the practice is legal?

"A few weeks ago, I sent a question about companies forcing workers with available sick leave to take unpaid FMLA leave after a few days. Just wanted to follow up. At my exit interview with that company (I'm moving on), I mentioned my concerns with the practice. That company (a private corporation) does not offer short-term disability coverage and tells employees that they should use accrued sick leave in the event of an illness. The HR rep I spoke to acknowledged that the company does in fact force anyone who is sick for more than 2 days in a row to go on unpaid FMLA leave, regardless of accrued sick leave, and do not inform employees of this policy. You only find out if you're sick for more than 2 days in a row. Thus, they encourage people to build up a pool of sick leave for a medical emergency, knowing full well that the employee will not be able to use it. The HR rep further acknowledge that the practice is deceptive and that the company should clarify the policy to employees. A relative told me that the company he works for (a state agency) also has this policy, and that recently one of his lower-wage employees who was fighting cancer lost his home in spite of having more than 6 months of accrued sick leave when the company placed him on unpaid FMLA leave after a week. Again, the company does not routinely disclose this policy. I'd like to urge everyone who does not have short-term disability coverage to contact their HR reps and ask specifically if there are any limits to the accrued sick leave that they can use consecutively, or for one illness."

Posted by: Emily | December 5, 2006 11:27 AM

"I have never heard of a any employer offering paid maternity leave. Companies make women cobble together vacation, short term and long term disability."

I'm not sure I understand why companies SHOULD offer paid maternity leave. Does it foster loyalty? Probably not, and in fact it may even encourage pregnant women to join a company only before they're showing and plan to quit after the maternity leave is over (I know a girl who did this in Canada, where paid maternity leave is a given).

I get that it would be great for the employee, but how does that help the company's bottom line? Seems like a colossal waste of corporate dollars to me.

Posted by: not a mom | December 5, 2006 11:28 AM

Marital status can be relevant to job performance. As NC Lawyer said, employers can't waste time wooing and training employees who are just going to take off. What if a woman is a military wife and could end up moving a couple of months later? Then the employer is out time and money.

Parental status often impacts one's availability on nights and weekends, and one's ability to travel. A single parent is even less likely to be able to meet these demands, and be more likely to need time off to care for a sick child or pick little Johnny up from school when the baby-sitter calls in sick. Obviously, that affects job performance.

Parenthood and marital status may also affect how well one gets along with co-workers. A good fit personality-wise is a permissible consideration, and people who have things in common may work better together. A single mother of two is not likely to have much in common with a team of single, childless 20-somethings who can work all night.

And yes, contrary to popular belief, sometimes an all-nighter is necessary.

I assume you get the idea.

Posted by: catmommy | December 5, 2006 11:33 AM

I have been a nurse for 30 years - 21 in the same place. We always share the holidays - if you got Christmas last year then you get either New Years or Thanksgiving this year and so on and so on. It has worked well for the most part except when someone new comes in with demands of all holidays.

Posted by: Nurse | December 5, 2006 11:34 AM

to the person who responded to my post. You are right in principal, but it is a lot more nuanced in real life. Example of an actual interview question -- do you want to have children? Illegal? YES!!! For various reasons the children did not arrive until 4 years later. It was a great job until I became a mother. Then I had to leave but the experience helped me to advance my career. The only person who would have been hurt professionally by pointing out to an interviewer the illegality of the question would have been I. My field is very competitive and they would have had no problem finding my replacement.

Posted by: dc working mom | December 5, 2006 11:39 AM

I wonder what would have happened if, while he was asking all the personal questions, she had stared him straight in the eye and said, "I'm sorry--I thought we were talking about (insert name of position." Looks like being nice didn't pay off for her--I wonder if calling him out on his sexism would have helped.

Second, I'm confused about something you wrote. You said she returned to interviewing after age 40; "her first big mistake." What was the mistake, returning to work, waiting until she was in her forties, or being old?

Posted by: Mona | December 5, 2006 11:39 AM

"A good fit personality-wise is a permissible consideration, and people who have things in common may work better together. A single mother of two is not likely to have much in common with a team of single, childless 20-somethings who can work all night."

Yes, and persons of color may not be a good fit with white people. And men may not work well with women.....

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 11:40 AM

This guest blog entry frightened the heck out of me, because I am embarking on a job hunt right now, and my main concern is finding a job that pays well yet offers me a good work/life balance. I have two kids, ages 7 and 5, and I am a single (divorced) mom. Yet I have good support from my boyfriend, who lives with us, and my ex-husband, who lives close by (unfortunately, NO extended family live nearby). Right now, I'm lucky --- I work at a marketing communications agency that lets me work from home one day a week, and doesn't blink an eye that I take off at 5pm each day to get home to my kids (it's a long commute, from midtown Manhattan to suburban New Jersey, via train). My boss is a working mother's dream boss: an older woman who always worked while raising her kids, who gives time off for school plays, kids' medical appointments, etc. Last week, my nanny was out sick all week for some minor surgery, and my boss let me work half days so I could be in the office while they were at school, then leave at 1pm in time to catch a 1:13 train home to the 'burbs and pick them up from school. Why am I so crazy to consider leaving? Because at a bank or brokerage firm (my area of specialization), i could be making anywhere from 25% to 40% more plus bonuses. As a single mom, I need the money. It's sad, but I do. This is among the most expensive areas in the country to live in terms of taxes and other expenses; property taxes on my modest 3-bedroom ranch house are close to $7,000 a year (and that's after selling my nicer 3-bedroom Colonial to save money, cutting my tax bill from $12.5K per year to $7K). I cannot relocate to another part of the country because my ex-husband refuses to move, and I could never devastate my kids by taking them away from their dad. Plus I'd have to take huge cut in pay to live somewhere else. ANyway, long story short, I am quite concerned about how I approach my job hunt. Frankly, it's no one's business if I have kids, but yet I seek a manager who is flexible and understands that I do excellent work that NEVER misses a deadline, but that I am a parent, first and foremost. It's a quandary. I would be willing to hang in there and keep my job if I were married and didn't have to worry so much, but that's not fair to pressure my boyfriend, who is also divorced and has the financial constraints of alimony, etc.

Posted by: quartermaine | December 5, 2006 11:40 AM

"Actually parental status can be a protected. Sex is a protected class under federal law, and if an employer is discriminating against women solely by virtue of their ability to bear children, that is sex discrimination."

Yes, but "parental status" is not protected under federal law. It is not illegal to discriminate against someone because they "are a parent." I could legally not hire a man because "he's a dad", unless the company or organization (or state?) had a specific law that forbid that.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 11:42 AM

Catmommy,
You are taking all the negatives of parenthood and omitting all the positives. It is my experience that good workers are good workers whether single, married, childless, or parents. There are many things about parenthood that makes people excellent workers. For one, they have taken on responsibilities, such as mortgages, which make keeping a job essential. For example, although I consider my family more important than my job, I also realize that I really need my job to support my family, and I am a good employee because my job allows me to have the quality of life that I need. I get to work on time every day. I rarely call in sick (thankfully, my son is very healthy). I am flexible about my hours when I need to be although of course I do not routinely work crazy hours. My job usually does not need me to. But if I need to do so once in a while, I do. I am mature. I can get along with almost anyone (even people I inwardly despise). I can multitask. There are quite a few twenty somethings in my office who routinely call in sick on Mondays because they are hungover. They have no accrued vacation or sick leave because they use their time as soon as they have a few hours accrued. A few of these young people also have a terrible work ethic and have a history of job hopping because they live with their parents and don't have to worry about being homeless if they don't make the rent.

So you cannot make general statements about parenthood or married status negatively affecting the workplace. Young people who are less mature and less responsible can negatively affect it also. It is better to ask direct questions of each person about hours and abilities to meet the job requirements than to make often wrongful assumptions based on stereotypes.

Posted by: Emily | December 5, 2006 11:44 AM

I'm applying for medical residency programs now, and EVERY SINGLE PROGRAM has heavily advertised the fact that it provides at least 6 weeks of paid maternity leave. Some even offer 6 weeks of paid paternity leave as well. Perhaps this is because I'm looking at pediatrics programs (which are usually over 70% female) or because medical interns/residents are almost entirely young people in their prime childbearing years. Still, if programs requiring up to 80 stressful hours a week and multiple overnight shifts can not only accommodate parents but even advertise to attract them, other companies have no excuse for discriminating against parents.

Posted by: queenm | December 5, 2006 11:44 AM

to waiting . . . . My employer offers ten weeks paid maternity leave to all female employees who have been employed for at least a year. I am aware of pharmaceutical and other companies who are even more generous, but don't know whether non-exempt/exempt status or other qualifiers limit access.

to not a mom, suggesting that paid maternity leave is a "colossal waste of dollars" and not a contribution to the bottom line indicates you have a very short-term view of profitability. In many industries, a significant portion of overhead is devoted to attracting and training new employees. Keeping employees who are proven performers is far more cost-effective than replacing them. If you can predict that a certain number of highly-valued and contributing employees is going to go out for 6 - 10 weeks twice over their career and bring their skill sets back to you, retaining them is a profitable policy. It's not profitable if they don't come back to the employer, if they relocate soon after Child 1 to be closer to family out-of-state, or they don't work look enough for the employer to become profitable prior to taking maternity leave. Many of us also are keenly aware that if our employer can live without us for ten weeks, it can probably live without us entirely, and we respond to e-mails and pitch in on fire-drills even during paid maternity leave. Many industries are different, but for ones in hiring battles for talent across gender lines, a good maternity leave policy is key to attracting that talent.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 5, 2006 11:44 AM

Catmommy,
You are taking all the negatives of parenthood and omitting all the positives. It is my experience that good workers are good workers whether single, married, childless, or parents. There are many things about parenthood that makes people excellent workers. For one, they have taken on responsibilities, such as mortgages, which make keeping a job essential. For example, although I consider my family more important than my job, I also realize that I really need my job to support my family, and I am a good employee because my job allows me to have the quality of life that I need. I get to work on time every day. I rarely call in sick (thankfully, my son is very healthy). I am flexible about my hours when I need to be although of course I do not routinely work crazy hours. My job usually does not need me to. But if I need to do so once in a while, I do. I am mature. I can get along with almost anyone (even people I inwardly despise). I can multitask. There are quite a few twenty somethings in my office who routinely call in sick on Mondays because they are hungover. They have no accrued vacation or sick leave because they use their time as soon as they have a few hours accrued. A few of these young people also have a terrible work ethic and have a history of job hopping because they live with their parents and don't have to worry about being homeless if they don't make the rent.

So you cannot make general statements about parenthood or married status negatively affecting the workplace. Young people who are less mature and less responsible can negatively affect it also. It is better to ask direct questions of each person about hours and abilities to meet the job requirements than to make often wrongful assumptions based on stereotypes.

Posted by: Emily | December 5, 2006 11:44 AM

I think MrHonda's employer sounds pretty good. Do you pay at the top of the industry scale? Do the positions have a lot of upward potential and flexible hours? The things that make a job good to one person may not make them good for another. Does your employer only offer managed care so that all these expectant employees don't have much choice about health care providers?

As a part of the contractor scene in DC I've found that better benefits often correlate to lower cash wages. I've also found that sometimes benefit packages are skewed to attract a certain kind of person. An employer with great maternity leave might be short on upward career growth, or cash salaries.

I think the authors' experience highlights how meaningless these 'best company' designations can be. It all depends on who you're working for and what you do.

Posted by: RoseG | December 5, 2006 11:46 AM

furthermore, I could not hire a fat woman because she is fat, I could not hire an ugly man because he is ugly, I could not hire a 39 year old because she is too old (because only over 40 are protected). It's a common misperception that we're not allowed to legally discriminate against anyone in this country - that is not true. There are only a few specific federally protected classes.

Posted by: more on discrimination | December 5, 2006 11:48 AM

to not a mom,

I am not sure what the outcome of paid maternity leave would be since I am not aware of an American company offering it. I do agree that there will be some women who abuse it. In every situation in this country, there will always be those who abuse "the system". Corporate bottom lines come before everything in a capitalistic system, I understand.

As for employee loyalty... this is such a quaint term to me. Employees are loyal to loyal employers. Loyalty is a two way street. Since the era of down-sizing, loyalty seems almost irrelevant in the employee/employer relationship since it all comes down to bottom lines (both company and employee's household bottom lines).

Posted by: waiting... | December 5, 2006 11:50 AM

Yes catmommy i get the idea you prejudge my ability willingness to work weekends or evenings because I am a parent. How about just asking if I am willing? This is what we have all been complaing about judging my willingness to work certain hours,etc or do a specific job based on parent hood or marital status instead of just asking the underlying question For example "will you be willing to commit to this area for four years (maybe the military spouse - after all there are married women in the military) and letting the interviewee say yes or no, ask if you can occasionally work an all nighter and then the person can decide on their own priorties - yes you have prejudged the parents and married people. Maybe less parents will be willing but it is not up to YOU assume that as a parent I don't have the support or desire to work those hours.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | December 5, 2006 11:51 AM

Oops--sorry about the open parentheses.

Posted by: Mona | December 5, 2006 11:51 AM

Emily,

If it's such a well-known fact that parents make good workers, I assume you would not take offense to someone asking you about your marital or parental status.

Also, thank you for proving my point. Marital or parental status IS relevant. I assume you attribute your financial responsibility and ability to multitask at least in part to parenthood.

Like I said, the mere posing of a question won't necessarily result in discrimination. I see nothing wrong with an employer wanting to know that information. Like you said, employers may prefer to hire parents or married people for the reasons you mentioned. I see nothing wrong with that.

Posted by: catmommy | December 5, 2006 11:52 AM

catmommy, we get the idea.

you want to use parental status as a bludgeon with which to beat up and exclude from professional opportunities all parents whether or not our resumes and life choices indicate that we are fully prepared to meet the demands of the job. Don't use my words to support your point because it's not supportable. "Marital status" is no indicator of job performance or whether one or another prospective employee will be a good "fit" on the team.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 5, 2006 11:55 AM

Catmommy,
My point is that asking specific questions related to the job and qualifications for the job will give you a much better answer. Can you work evenings and weekends on a regular basis? Can you pull allnighters when needed? Some parents can and some parents can't. Some childless people are willing and others are unwilling. Asking the specific questions will give you a better sense of the person's ability to fit in than making assumptions that may have no sound basis.

Posted by: Emily | December 5, 2006 11:57 AM

NC lawyer, point taken. For long-time employees who are proven performers, I agree that should be taken into consideration. My company offers generous vacation benefits, so if I were to become pregnant, I'd have five weeks of PTO before having to dig into disability coverage, but that's because I've been at my company for several years.

I guess I'm still riled up about the Canadian girl I know who changed jobs when she was 4 months pregnant solely for the maternity benefits, then quit when her leave was up. Make it too easy for people to abuse the system and there will be plenty of opportunists to snatch that free money up. Perhaps the solution is to require a certain amount of service before such sweet benefits kick in.

Posted by: not a mom | December 5, 2006 12:00 PM

You have listed one anecodote of someone abusing the system and you are willing to discard maternity benefits across the board?

Posted by: Not a Mom | December 5, 2006 12:04 PM

Apparently -me- thought I was asking for him or her to pass judgment. If you feel you must judge, here is some more info so you can get it right.

My wife had plenty of paid leave to cover her absences, and when she wasn't sick herself, she telecommuted. Yet she still was subjected to an inappropriate line of questioning. Also, she wasn't out for a month continuously. It was intermittent over a period of about 1 month.

The point is that her supervisor is not entitled to know anything other than that she is unable to be at work on that day due to illness or a child's illness. Now, thanks to her own mismanagement skills, my wife's supervisor must replace the most productive worker she has. It is a sales type of position and my wife has historically produced as many sales as the other 2 members of her team combined, including during the month in question. The supervisor thought that by micromanaging she could get maximum productivity when, in fact, she now will in all likelihood get a less productive employee.

I provide this as an example of the negative consequences of focusing on time over productivity. As a supervisor, I am much more concerned with a worker's productivity than with the sheer number of hours they can amass.

Posted by: Sean | December 5, 2006 12:10 PM

And I don't understand why anyone is taking catmommy seriously. Surely her name gives her away. I for one, just use my freak radar duriing interviews. And freak status does not discriminate between parents or single people. There are plenty in all categoreis.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 12:10 PM

to not a mom, your story about the Canadian girl, and Mr.Honda's earlier anecdotes annoy me, as well, because the actions of that girl, and others like her, encourage certain hiring managers to employ inaccurate, discriminatory nonsense in determining who gets hired.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 5, 2006 12:10 PM

"You have listed one anecodote of someone abusing the system and you are willing to discard maternity benefits across the board?"

Not across the board. I just don't think paid leave should be a given, and that those who offer it to new employees are suckers.

Posted by: not a mom | December 5, 2006 12:13 PM

to anon at 12:10, LOL! The freak radar, indeed, is the best hiring tool of all time.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 5, 2006 12:14 PM

Kirsten,
Having worked in Sydney and Melbourne, I've faced this same sort of nonsense. One thing missing in all this is the fact that the Australian society is different from the US. It is common for people to go in and out of work (see casual labour). People rarely live to work, but rather, work to live. Working 40 hour weeks is too many hours...if not illegal. I remember 37.5 was the max I could charge a week consulting.

Also, it is common in Australia to find something to weed out tall-poppies. Frankly, if you're too good, you face the most discrimination. Maybe this woman was a victim of tall-poppyism rather than sexism per se.

Posted by: dotted | December 5, 2006 12:15 PM

ILC, Thanks for answering my questions. After reading this blog I will know what to look out for during interviews and I will pass the information along to my friends. What would be nice though, and I just thought of this, is if universities offered this as part of a class so students entering the work force for the first time would know how to handle themselves in an interview and know which questions were legal and which weren't.

Posted by: Melissa | December 5, 2006 12:17 PM

to catmommmy

Is it ok to ask how many cats a potential employee has in an interview, and then make assumptions about that person's cleanliness and mental stability?

Posted by: Sean | December 5, 2006 12:24 PM

I'll I am saying is that many of you natalist posters were on the "Do Parents Make Bettere Employees" blog last week extolling the virtues of parenthood and lamenting the lack of work ethic in single childless workers.

If you think it's so great, why are you offended at being asked?

Posted by: catmommy | December 5, 2006 12:24 PM

Wow, that is frightening.

She should contact HR and file a complaint. It's illegal to ask whether a woman has children or not directly and if it is obvious indirect questions are trying find out the same answer to the question, I would think that's not cool either.

At the very least, it would be noted on the interviewer's file, and if there are subsequent complaints, some action might be taken. But if she doesn't complain, despite this blog, likely nothing will be done and he will get away with it.

Posted by: Jennifer | December 5, 2006 12:26 PM

I feel like there is a lot of misinformation out there about what is legal and illegal to ask and/or use as a grounds for hiring.

Laura always seems knowledgeable, so I believe her statement that it is NOT illegal to ask these questions but that those questions make a company vulnerable to a lawsuit.

Two questions (pardon my ignorance):
1. How can you win a lawsuit if its not illegal?

2. In order to win a lawsuit about discrimination in hiring, what would the plaintiff have to prove? Is it difficult to win these sorts of cases?

I ask because it seems like this sort of stuff DOES come up a lot. Doesn't seem like the possibility of a lawsuit is a deterrent to many corporations.

Posted by: becky | December 5, 2006 12:27 PM

Here's a question worth answering:

Are you guys blogging about this at work?

Posted by: lawgirl | December 5, 2006 12:28 PM

Oh, and for the record, I have two cats and I did not ask for them. I married into them, so they're kind of like step children. My husband rescued them from abusive drug users. So I am not a "crazy cat lady," I just use that handle sometimes because it gets the natalists' panties in a bunch.

Posted by: catmommy | December 5, 2006 12:32 PM

I am offended at any question in an interview setting that is irrelevant to job performance. I am no more offended by being asked whether I am married than I am by being asked whether I will have more children, or whether I was raised Mormon. I am highly offended that you believe you know something about my qualifications or work performance if I answer your question about my marital status. While you're at it, why not ask whether I'm happily married? If I am unhappily married, the job you are offering might be part of my exit strategy from the bad marriage and I won't mind travel, long hours or other demands since I'd just as soon not go home.

The hardest workers I've seen, in all honesty, have been unhappily married folks. Try using that as a criteria in the future and let us know how it works out for you.

Posted by: to catmommy | December 5, 2006 12:37 PM

I bet if "Catmommy" were "Dogmommy" no-one's "freak radar" would ping. Nor would people be making cracks about cleanliness and/or mental stability. But this is another topic for another time, and is more in the psychology and sociology realm anyway.

Anyhoo, I agree with the posters who stated that an employer can ask non-discriminatory questions. For instance, "This job requires a lot of travel, at least two weeks a month." Or "We regularly pull all-nighters here, would you be willing to do that?" That neatly and sweetly encapsulates the job requirements and screens out employees unsuitable for the position WITHOUT asking nosy questions about an interviewee's personal life.

Posted by: Flyonthewall | December 5, 2006 12:39 PM

Actually I remember most posters on the blog on "do parents make better employees" were of the opinion it depended on the individual.

Posted by: divorced mom of 1 | December 5, 2006 12:40 PM

Sean, why didn't you share the sick-child care with her, which would have allowed her to be present at work more often during that month?

Posted by: Grimm | December 5, 2006 12:40 PM

natalists

What the hell does this mean?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 12:44 PM

I have to agree with flyonthewall about better encapsulating the job. I used to work for a place with rotating on-call responsibilities (crackberry/cell phone carried after hours to support clients worldwide) and our post said "some evening and weekend work". Most people hired didn't understand the extent of what they signed up for until they started and on at least one occasion an employee negotiated her way out of it.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | December 5, 2006 12:44 PM

Natalism is the belief that human reproduction is the basis for individual existence. It is taken from the Latin for "birth," natalis.

Posted by: FYI | December 5, 2006 12:48 PM

From catmommy:
"Parenthood and marital status may also affect how well one gets along with co-workers. A good fit personality-wise is a permissible consideration, and people who have things in common may work better together."

I have all I need to have in common with my co-workers: my job. This gives a LOT to talk about and I don't feel any strain in not talking much about my personal life with most of them. We get along fine, although all the people I work directly with are married men with kids and I am a single (technically, because I cannot marry) woman who doesn't yet have kids. What we need from our team is the ability to work together and be reasonably friendly, not a presumed common interest (or lack thereof) in Sesame Street.

From another post:
"It's a common misperception that we're not allowed to legally discriminate against anyone in this country - that is not true. There are only a few specific federally protected classes."

Ain't that the truth. This is a good incentive for me to not talk about my personal life very much, since I am gay and have absolutely no protection from discrimination. I think that most people would be okay with it. I don't want to find out the hard way that I am mistaken.

Posted by: The grain of salt in the pepper jar | December 5, 2006 12:52 PM

Natal is a port city in northeastern Brazil. There live the Natalists. ;-)

Posted by: Working Dad | December 5, 2006 12:54 PM

....I am not a "crazy cat lady," I just use that handle sometimes because it gets the natalists' panties in a bunch.


That, by definition is Trolling.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 12:54 PM

Product of a working mother: "Some" is certainly a weasel word! Companies have to be honest. Tell the interviewees how much evening and weekend work, how much time per month with the CrackBerry etc. It's unethical, IMO, to bait-and-switch employees. It needs to be right out there in the interview - *how much* evening and weekend work (at least a good guess)? *How much* travel?

If a company fears it can't attract talent at all without weaseling and prevaricating - I submit that the company needs to re-evaluate the requirements of the position. Meanwhile people who can't travel or have family responsibilities need to focus on jobs that allow this.

Posted by: Flyonthewall | December 5, 2006 12:55 PM

"I just use that handle sometimes because it gets the natalists' panties in a bunch"

huh, many people have kids and have cats as well. You having cats doesn't bother me in the least, have 100 if you want.

Posted by: scarry | December 5, 2006 12:56 PM

The problem with all of the buzz about "discrimination" is that it is making it impossible, even in at-will employment states, to fire anyone, even for cause (although technically you don't need cause).

You people are crying discrimination because you've chosen to breed and apparently can't hack it at work because of that.

Because of people like you, employers are having to start documenting inadequate performance weeks before dumping an underperforming employee, for fear of getting sued because the employee HAPPENS to be female, old, of a different religion, or of racial minority.

You are detracting from capitalism, increasing burdens to employers, and making it hard for the rest of us.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 12:57 PM

Add on to Flyonthewall: People who are being interviewed for a job also need to be honest when asked if they are available for travel and weekend work. I worked with someone who accepted a position that clearly required travel once a month then always came up with a reason she couldn't do it. The rest of us ended up doubling up on our weekends because of her. Much as I hate to say it - she was a single mother and the boss was reluctant to fire her because of his fear of lawsuit.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | December 5, 2006 12:59 PM

Every time I use "catmommy" somebody makes a snide comment about it. It's amusing.

Posted by: catmommy | December 5, 2006 12:59 PM

Grain of Salt,
Would you really want to work somewhere or for someone that it was an issue?

Posted by: Working Dad | December 5, 2006 1:01 PM

"Because of people like you, employers are having to start documenting inadequate performance weeks before dumping an underperforming employee, for fear of getting sued because the employee HAPPENS to be female, old, of a different religion, or of racial minority.

You are detracting from capitalism, increasing burdens to employers, and making it hard for the rest of us."


Well, jeez anonymous. Forgive me if my heart does not bleed for corporate america right now. What with the stock market skyrocketing, absurd oil profits and and corporate welfare.

Gee, I'm so sorry that companies have to do an extra week or two of work before throwing someone out on the street. What a massive threat to capitalism! Call Fox News!

Posted by: Please. | December 5, 2006 1:01 PM

Everyone might enjoy the poem of the day from the Writer's Almanac on NPR
"Things you didn't put on your resume" by Joyce Sutphen -- I sure did.
http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/

Posted by: Caroline | December 5, 2006 1:05 PM

KB Silver Spring: I agree with you. BOTH employers and interview candidates need to be honest. I'm a grad student now, but when the time comes to go back into the work world I'm going to figure out how much travel I can do BEFORE I interview. I figure that if everyone is honest that will save a lot of grief.

And to the 12:57 anon: I'm playing the world's tiniest violin for corporate America. So an employee can only be fired for cause, instead of being old or dark-skinned or whatever? Boo. Freaking. Hoo.

Posted by: Flyonthewall | December 5, 2006 1:06 PM

"You people are crying discrimination because you've chosen to breed and apparently can't hack it at work because of that."

Just so we know whether we are one of the "you people" who should be offended, to whom are you referring? I'd say we have a pretty diverse crowd here today of parents, childfree persons, childless persons, natalists, gay and straight folks, nurses who have to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas, and an Aussie or three.

Enlighten us on how firing non-performers because they are Presbyterian, Norwegian, Pakistani, or polygamous is easier or more efficient than firing them for, duh, nonperformance.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 5, 2006 1:06 PM

You can legally discriminate against a lot of people, just not based on race, sex, religion, or age. The protected classes are limited because otherwise, anybody could be a plaintiff in a discrimination case.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 1:08 PM

oops, I meant "national origin," although the ADEA protects against age discrimination.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 1:11 PM

To fly on the wall/KB Silver Spring - companies and employees both have to be honest - especially during the interview process. On top of the on-call we traveled frequently and they were often day trips in NE Corridor (translated up at some ungodly hour for train or plane and home the same day about 15-18 hours later). Towards the end no matter how late it was I relished the idea that I would eventually be home and not checking into a hotel. Generally I have observed that only large organizations like big banks and management consultancies have travel policies that make the unbearable a little more comfortable.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | December 5, 2006 1:19 PM

Companies benefit when they offer good family benefits, good health benefits and respect employees personal time. Employees are more healthy, work harder, stay longer, and generally advance the company's goals. So many companies have done pilot project, studies, etc. showing that. Yet it doesn't get implemented widely, I guess b/c of basic lingering biaises.
Providing good parental benefits improves productivity and retention. Some banks in CA have seen further benefits by allowing new mothers to bring their newborns to the office as long as they weren't mobile yet. That increased the number of women who returned to work. And they worked better. (not to talk about the fact that it would facilitate breastfeeding and therefore strengthen the baby's immune system, benefit to the kid and to the company if the parent doesn't have to take time off for sick kid..) A recent NYT articles made the same point about telecommuting: focus on worker results and they work harder.
I wish it weren't so hard to realize that treating your employees well benefits your company...

Posted by: caramel | December 5, 2006 1:21 PM

Sean -

If the worker were not your wife, but instead was someone working for you (think nanny, daycare provider, etc), wouldn't you wonder if this was going to be an ongoing situation? The supervisor may not legally be entitled to question certain things, but for planning purposes and work reassignment and meeting scheduling, etc, it is nice to know if a change in work attendance will be resolved in the near future.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 1:22 PM

"Still, if programs requiring up to 80 stressful hours a week and multiple overnight shifts can not only accommodate parents but even advertise to attract them, other companies have no excuse for discriminating against parents"

LOL - do you really think 80-hour weeks and multiple overnight shifts are accommodating to parents?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 1:25 PM

I don't think 80 hour weeks and multiple overnight shifts are accomodating to ANYONE.

Posted by: Missicat | December 5, 2006 1:27 PM

Working Dad said:
"Would you really want to work somewhere or for someone that [my being gay] was an issue?"

If I said "no" without qualifiers, I should leave the US (or possibly just shoot myself) because my being gay is apparently an issue to an awful lot of people.

I wouldn't want to work anywhere people were being jerks to me, but I'd hate to lose this position. My job is great (I wrote my job description) and pays very well. I like my co-workers. I get to do a lot of interesting things and go cool places. I work from home most of the time. There aren't a lot of jobs like this.

Frankly, in my experience enough people are weird about gay people that I'd be surprised if I've NEVER worked with anyone for whom my being gay would be an issue. I just don't necessarily know because it's only something you know about me if we're friends, not just people sharing a common employer.

I prefer to err on the side of caution. My career is important to me (and us) and, as I said, I have plenty to talk about with my co-workers even if most conversation is about work or non-personal subjects.

Ideally, sure, it would be great if no one cared whether my absurdly domestic life was with a man or a woman. Hasn't yet worked out that way.

Posted by: The grain of salt in the pepper jar | December 5, 2006 1:29 PM

NCLawyer

"Enlighten us on how firing non-performers because they are Presbyterian, Norwegian, Pakistani, or polygamous is easier or more efficient than firing them for, duh, nonperformance."

I'm not sure polygamists fall into any protected class.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 1:38 PM

Im from the US and I work at a Tech firm. My immediate boss is a woman (great boss). Her superior is a woman. There are a lot of women who work here and in the last 3 months 3 women have left for maternity leave. The most recent is out 5 months, the minimum maternity leave is 5 weeks, which is what a higher ranking employee took. This is a well respected company, but not rated in the top 100 places to work in the US.

I think there will always be some discrimination about something like this, but I think it is more on the individual reviewer and the specific company, than it is widespread practice (in the US at least). It seems to me that this is the type of problem that gets resolved gradually overtime.

Remember it hasn't been that long (in human history) that women have truly been in the non-domestic work force. The problems a working mother faces and the ways that companies work with them to mitigate these problems are still being hashed out.

I think you are right to keep an eye on this type of behavior, but I don't think the issue is as sinister as some have made it seem. Of course I am a 25 year old man, so you can choose to ignore my 2 cents, admittedly my experience is limited. But, in my limited experience I have been impressed with the lengths this particular company, and other companies I have heard of in the US, goes to in order to accommadate working mothers.

Posted by: Adam | December 5, 2006 1:38 PM

I'm not sure polygamists fall into any protected class.

religion

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 1:40 PM

Do you practice employment law? That won't hack it.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 1:41 PM

There is no First Amendment right to practice polygamy or otherwise violate laws that are within the state's police powers to promulgate. You can fire someone for violating the law if you want to.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 1:43 PM

My company, a publishing company, offers paid maternity leave for 12 weeks (granted only 1/3 pay, but still).

My company found they were in a tight spot during my leave and asked me to come back two hours a day, then 5 hours a day, and my maternity leave was extended accordingly (really, I was just able to work part time versus full time off and then fully back to work).

Importantly, however, I have a home office and continue to work from home. I would have done it anyway even if I had needed to go into the office. My company is such that my son would have been allowed to come in with me.

As a result, loyalty on both sides has been strengthened, I think. They were truly grateful that I agreed to work, and I was grateful to not have to jump back into work full-time right at the end of my leave, but eased back into it.

Posted by: Rebecca | December 5, 2006 1:46 PM

So freedom of religion only applies if the government like your religion?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 1:48 PM

to lawgirl

touché ;)

Posted by: Sean | December 5, 2006 1:48 PM

I did not identify polygamy as a protected class, people.

Focusing only on legal claims in connection with discriminatory hiring or firing practices isn't very helpful to the average person seeking to navigate the hiring or retention process. In my experience, when one is seeking employment, one's time is better devoted toward conducting a successful job search rather than running off to an employment lawyer seeking a percentage of a theoretical recovery. Others may choose differently.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 5, 2006 1:53 PM

YES, good maternity/family benefits build employee loyalty. I'm a lawyer at a large DC firm with great family benefits. For both my babies I got 4 months 100% paid leave (a combo of disability, which my firm paid the bulk of the premium for) and took an additional 3 months unpaid leave. This is not atypical for my firm. I noq work an 80% schedule. The partners I work with (male and female) are terrific. As long as my work gets done (and you can be sure it does, I'm not crazy, I want to keep this job) they are happy.

As a result of these policies, my firm has been very successful in retaining lawyers who are parents. The turnover rate in large firms is quite high, but most of the parents stay put and are very loyal. I for one will NEVER go to another firm, even though I've been headhunted. This is a huge benefit to my firm, because I bring with me the extensive knowledge I have about, and relationships with, our clients. My partners know me and trust me, so we can talk in shorthand, and I am intimately familiar with their needs and our clients needs. I know if I left, they could replace me, but it would cost them a lot.

With well over HALF of law school graduates being women, I don't see how any firm can realistically expect to not have to address this issue, like it or not. By offering great "life balance" benefits and offering financial incentives for those employees who can and do work longer hours, they keep everyone pretty happy.

On the flip side, I deal with inhouse lawyers at client corporations. The ones with high turnovers sure have higher legal bills as a result. Every time someone new starts, I have to retread work that has already been done, either to bring the new person up to speed or to have them redo work that was already done because they can't find the memo or whatever. I bill them by the hour for that! So I see in my day to day practice how company turnover hurts the bottom line.

I am very very loyal to my employers because of their great policies. I could go somewhere else and earn money, but I never will.

And for the no kids crowd out there, I'm aware of at least 4 lawyers in my firm who work part time who don't have kids. They just wanted to have a life. And some of them have made partner while on this schedule. And our firm keeps having record profits. So they must be doing something right.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 2:22 PM

Hey Becky -- I have to admit, pretty much all I know about this is close to 10 yrs old, so I hope someone with more recent experience can chime in. Basically, to win a discrimination suit, you would have to prove that someone didn't hire you because of race or gender or some other protected characteristic. The big question is how? There's a big difference between knowing the truth and being able to prove it in court. And most people nowadays don't just SAY "I won't hire a woman," so you almost never have direct evidence to prove intentional discrimination.

So usually you base that claim on more indirect evidence. Like if you ask a woman whether she plans to have kids, and then don't hire her, that question could be evidence that the decision not to hire was based on illegal gender discrimination (i.e., the interviewer presumed that any woman who wanted kids would quit and so didn't hire her because of that). So the question itself isn't illegal, but it might be evidence of discriminatory intent (especially if, for example, you can prove that they have a pattern of asking women that question but not men).

Also, it doesn't all just come down to winning in court. For ex., I suspect that the government has very thorough anti-discrimination policies, so even asking a question like that might get you in trouble with your bosses. Also, asking questions like that could fuel a complaint to the EEOC (which is usually the first stop before litigation), which could lead to a federal investigation and the bad publicity that goes along with it. Like with a court, just asking the question doesn't prove discrimination, but it could be enough to get the ball rolling -- especially if there is a history of similar complaints. So I think a lot of companies take a fairly conservative approach on this -- even if the questions themselves are "legal," they think, why risk it, especially when you can get the information you really need just by asking better questions?

This is why you have a lot of company policies that establish rules for interviews and for disciplinary actions. Basically, companies can hire or fire anyone, as long as it is supported by a legitimate business reason and isn't the result of illegal discrimination. So most companies try to avoid any questions that could be misconstrued and make sure that the legitimate business reasons for any personnel decisions are very well documented, because that's strong evidence if there is a later discrimination claim. Which is why if today's poster were US-based, I imagine that interviewer's bosses (or at least the company lawyers!) would be cringing mightily -- not just because of the question itself, but because that was the ONLY thing he believed was important enough to write down throughout an hour-long interview!

Posted by: Laura | December 5, 2006 2:25 PM

Hi Quartermaine -- Fear is a terrible thing to bring into a job interview. Don't worry, this prejudice is not everywhere, fortunately. I always try to remember "it's just work," which sometimes helps me have distance and perspective and of course sometimes it doesn't help at all.

Posted by: Leslie | December 5, 2006 2:26 PM

My internet connection went down about one am last night so I had to duck out of the conversation for a while. Lucky I am up at 5 am with a son with an ear infection.....who says mothers don't/can't work crazy hours.

First to Ashes Test - you get to the crux of the matter. Work and Family is all very well, but where and when are you supposed to squeeze in the cricket?

Discrimination - when I talked to my friend about whether she felt discriminated against, she was really adament she didn't want to use that label - she didn't want to complain and she didn't want sympathy. She certainly didn't want special treatment. Maybe it was simply a question of the interview not going well. But if the interviewer had written 'award winning sales' or 'promoted frequently' or 'excellent references' she might have felt he was thinking about her as a professional and not as a working mother.

I believe these issues will be resolved as we think of ourselves as 'working parents' not working mums (moms) or working dads.

Remember, workforce participation - keeping men and women at the grindstone producing and earning and paying tax and spending - is an economic issue. it is an imperative if we -the US, Europe, Japan, Australia etc wish to sustain growth.

If working parents don't work who is going to fund their retirement? We can't rely on the childless to keep the economic wheels turning. We all have to pitch in.

Posted by: Kirsten | December 5, 2006 2:28 PM

I got canned from an EPA contractor right after the birth of my 3rd child. I should have gotten a clue when I went to the company picnic and there were more dogs that attended than children. Funny thing, "No Dogs Allowed" signs were posted all over the picnic ground. Suppose environmentalist don't have to follow laws like that.

don't get me wrong, I love dogs, it's the contractor that was evil.

As it was put to me, the "project" was being discontinued, and since I was blind, had no other projects for future employment.

I could have sued their asses off, but instead of wasting my time with the courts, I got a better job.

Here is the kicker: They got several contracts within a few months redoing some of the EPA web pages. By law, the sites had to be 508 compliant, which means, they had to be changed as to be accessible to blind persons.

Heading for the gym... I've got some feathers to unruffle.

Posted by: Father of 4 | December 5, 2006 2:39 PM

Agreeing with KB/Silverspring and Produt of a Working Mother that honesty on both sides is the best policy, and saves grief and employee turnover later on.

Unfortunately, I can think of a couple of reasons why an employee would say "Travel? Sure! Anytime, anywhere!" when it's not true. The job might be such a plum that the employee figures that travel is but a little fly in the ointment, only to find out that the travel requirement is a huge ugly horsefly that's VERY hard to deal with.

Or the employee might be out of work for nine months, living off credit cards, about to lose her house and so she or he grabs in desperation for any job that pays well. So the interviewee figures s/he'll promise anything and find a way to wiggle out of it later.

So in these cases honesty might fall by the wayside. Unfortunately this will come around to bite both the employee and employer in the behind sooner or later.

Posted by: Flyonthewall | December 5, 2006 2:54 PM

"But by most estimates, nearly half of all private-sector workers in the United States do not have a single day of paid sick leave." - from Amy Joyce's column Sunday

Something to think about when complaining about lack of paid maternity leave.

Posted by: food for thought | December 5, 2006 2:59 PM

To Flyonthewall: I can certainly understand the desperation someone might have and take a job just to pay the bills. The problem is that their desperation can result in unfairness to the other employees which does result in ill will towards the person who is unable/unwilling to perform the job as needed.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | December 5, 2006 3:02 PM

Mona - just to answer your comments. Firstly I agree with you - calling the interviewer out, challenging his line of questioning would probably have been effective. But how many of us have the confidence to act in such a way in a job interview? You are so focused on appearing cooperative, informed, a team player etc

Secondly with regard to my comment 'her first big mistake' I was just being ironic of course. When you are over forty your field of opportunity subtly narrows. Its not written anywhere but it is surely real.

Just another aspect to add to the original article, the candidate was British, the interview was in Australia, the company is from the US and the interviewer was French. It is pretty well an international issue.

Kirsten

Posted by: Kirsten | December 5, 2006 3:03 PM

To Flyonthewall: I can certainly understand the desperation someone might have and take a job just to pay the bills. The problem is that their desperation can result in unfairness to the other employees which does result in ill will towards the person who is unable/unwilling to perform the job as needed. As one of the people who got stuck picking up her slack I can tell you I had ill will towards her. When you know which weekends you are to work you feel confident making plans on the other weekends. When all of a sudden (and this happened more often than not) one person falls out of their rotation it messes up alot (one weekend theater tickets, another a birthday). Part of a work environment should be respect for your coworkers - she didn't have it for us and we were unable to muster it for her.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | December 5, 2006 3:04 PM

"When you are over forty your field of opportunity subtly narrows."

This, of course, brings into question whether it's realistic for some women to think (or for other know-it-alls to suggest) that they can defer childbirth, then stay out of the employed worforce for 5 or so years and return to the workplace in a position relatively comparable (perhaps a couple of steps back) to the one they last held. Not!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 3:07 PM

"Actually parental status can be a protected. Sex is a protected class under federal law, and if an employer is discriminating against women solely by virtue of their ability to bear children, that is sex discrimination."

Yes, but "parental status" is not protected under federal law. It is not illegal to discriminate against someone because they "are a parent." I could legally not hire a man because "he's a dad", unless the company or organization (or state?) had a specific law that forbid that.
--------------

To follow up on Anon's posting at 11:42 a.m. I'm fairly sure (although it's been a while since Con Law) that even the pregnant woman (as opposed to the dad) does not fall into the "sex discrimination" category. I think the Supreme Court, in a case called LeFleur, held that there was no discrimination against a pregnant teacher where she wasn't in a category of women, but rather "pregnant" v. "non-pregnant" people. (Yes, that's for real.)

Posted by: Cream of the Crop | December 5, 2006 3:09 PM

"But by most estimates, nearly half of all private-sector workers in the United States do not have a single day of paid sick leave." - from Amy Joyce's column Sunday

Something to think about when complaining about lack of paid maternity leave

Why is it something to think about? It's not like pregnant women are making the rules about sick days.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 3:14 PM

To Cream of the Crop:

Actually, you are incorrect. 42 U.S.C. 2000e(k) provides that the statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex includes on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Posted by: lawgirl | December 5, 2006 3:16 PM

"Why is it something to think about? It's not like pregnant women are making the rules about sick days."

Because if you have sick days you can use toward maternity leave, you are better off than 1/2 the work force that has no sick leave at all.


Posted by: food for thought | December 5, 2006 3:20 PM

On the good side, the interview let her know a lot about the company's feelings towards parents and what she's likely to be wakling into- specially if the interviewer is someone she'd be working with closely.

And, as someone pointed out- it's illegal here to ask someone about age/family unless the person brings it up themselves. Not that there's much likelihood of recourse, but it's good to be prepared with vague/distracting answers in case you come up to an interviewer who doesn't know or play by the rules.

Posted by: Liz D | December 5, 2006 3:20 PM

I don't think that pregnancy should be considered a sickness or a disability.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 3:21 PM

Wow. The lawyers are out in force today!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 3:24 PM

Lawgirl, thanks for the correction; I already had a sinking feeling as I attempted to brave the world of equal protection for the first time in years.

Posted by: Cream of the Crop | December 5, 2006 3:30 PM

- I don't think that pregnancy should be considered a sickness or a disability -

It isn't, but recovery from childbirth is not the same as pregnancy.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 3:31 PM

I don't have time to read all the comments, so I don't know if someone else has already mentioned this.

In September, there was an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Maternal Profiling. Apparently it is perfectly legal in Pennsylvania for potential employers to ask if you are married, have kids, etc.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06260/721997-109.stm

Posted by: speech girl | December 5, 2006 3:34 PM

No prob. That's all Title VII stuff.

All the same, I don't think the protection goes beyond the pregnancy/childbirth/related medical condition phase to extend to "parenthood." Lord help us all if "parents" were a protected class!

There would be litigation every time someone got canned for going to too many of Suzy's soccer games!

Posted by: lawgirl | December 5, 2006 3:34 PM

I can imagine the case law now. Every parent can attend two sporting events, dance recitals, or girl/boy scout meetings per academic semester; three doctor's appointments; and two teacher's conferences without raising an inference of ineptitude....

Posted by: lawgirl | December 5, 2006 3:37 PM

Thanks for the link Speech Girl. It sounds fascinating. Kirsten

Posted by: Kirsten | December 5, 2006 3:43 PM

Cheers Kirsten. I'm off to get a few nights' sleep before the Test in Perth.

Posted by: Ashes Test | December 5, 2006 3:49 PM

Laura, thanks for clarifying. I should have read the discussion following your post about 10:50 before posting my questions.

So, to confirm... is this the consensus from today:

1. It is NOT illegal to ask questions regarding family status in an interview. (This is a huge surprise to me. Maybe people say "illegal" when what they mean is "against company policy"?)

2. However, it IS illegal to discriminate against certain protected classes in hiring and promotions.

3. Those protected classes do NOT include pregnant women or parents.

4. However, women are a "protected class" and discriminating against a mother because she is a mother could just as easiy be considered discriminating against a woman.

5. While not illegal, it is not good practice for a company to ask questions about family status because it can open them to lawsuits, bad publicity, etc;

Posted by: becky | December 5, 2006 3:51 PM

becky, bullet point 3 is correct, in part(see lawgirl's 3:16 post).

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 3:57 PM

Becky, I think you've pretty much got it, with the clarification on pregnancy above. And with the caveat that there are of course 800 gazillion exceptions to each of these rules. :-)

Posted by: Laura | December 5, 2006 4:04 PM

As an employer I must remind people there are many ways to look at this issue. If we hire someone that cannot do the job we may lose customers and business. If you sue me for not hiring you, I have less $ money to hire more people, will raise prices, and may even go out of business, laying off a 100s of people and hurting many contractors as well. If you trick me into hiring you just long enough to get maternity benefits, I eventually eliminate those benefits or hire accordingly. The dedicated family people lose on that deal too. If I am completely altruistic and hire anyone just to avoid lawsuits, I must raise the prices you pay and my competition eats me alive. The lawyers get the best of all these worlds, and the little people find it very hard to get jobs. Happiness comes from finding a job that fits your lifestyle, pays enough, and allows you to work with people you like to work for or with. Seek balance and balance seeks you.

Posted by: thw2001 | December 5, 2006 4:13 PM

Cream of the Crop -- Gee, I guess your elite education doesn't ward off forgetting stuff. Hmmm. Would be a shame to lose your talents in the workforce.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 4:16 PM

5. While not illegal, it is not good practice for a company to ask questions about family status because it can open them to lawsuits, bad publicity, etc;

Becky,

The two most important reasons it's not a best practice for a company to ask questions about family status are: (1) the information gleaned from such questions is not helpful in making a good hiring decision, and (2) the company risks offending an entire subset of qualified applicants, some of whom may fit the company's hiring needs. Any conduct that shrinks the pool of qualified applicants such that the company doesn't have its offers of employment accepted is inconsistent with an efficient approach to hiring.

In this instance, complying with the law is entirely consistent with profitability and efficiency.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 5, 2006 4:17 PM

Oh, so now you're saying it ISN'T illegal to ask about family status in an interview? Didn't you all blast me earlier for saying it shouldn't be? Funny how the tables have turned.

I just favor full disclosure. Employers make fudge on the demands of the job and employees may fudge on their dedication and availability. I support full disclosure of all relevant facts by both parties. It will keep a lot of money in the hands of businesses and their employees, and out of the hands of their lawyers.

Posted by: catmommy | December 5, 2006 4:36 PM

Waaaaay up above someone suggested that maternity leave benefits should perhaps be given only after x months with the job to prevent abuse of the system. Because I was 3 months pregnant when I started the job I'm in now, this would stink for me! However, I don't see any reason that they shouldn't put in clauses about owe-back. Say you're allowed 12 weeks paid maternity leave for each 12 months of work. (What a nice little benefit.) If you take the leave after 6 months and get 12 weeks paid off, you have to work for 6 months or you owe them what they paid you while you were gone. I don't think you should have to pay back any accrued annual or sick leave that you may used if you fail to return, though. Payback is a relatively common thing in government, so it's not without precedence.

Questions: US gov't jobs don't have "maternity leave," there is only FMLA leave. In companies with 12 weeks paid maternity, can you use that time to care for a sick parent, for instance, or is it strictly for new babies? What about if you adopted and didn't give birth, since 6 weeks is considered "recovery from childbirth" time? I can see why childless people would be upset by this...

Posted by: atb | December 5, 2006 4:37 PM

Thanks for the comment, Kirsten. Sadly, you're probably right. But wouldn't it be nice if we all had the courage/confidence/sack to call someone out, professionally and politely, when they're being ridiculous?

And thanks for clarifying about the age issue. It's sad that people over a certain age (and 40 is relatively young) are discriminated against.

Posted by: Mona | December 5, 2006 4:42 PM

The key question is whether the interviewer would have asked a male candidate the same type of personal questions. That's what constitutes discrimination.

Having said that, most employers these days if offered an option would hire energetic people with no outside obligations. It's a competitive environment and they don't want to be slowed down by a problematic work force. The fact remains that, in the United States, biology may not be destiny but it sure as hell has an impact.

Posted by: jmwo1956 | December 5, 2006 4:48 PM

I am fortunate to work for a boss who supports work/life balance. Need time off to care for your elderly parent? Take it. Sick? Stay home. Pregnant? We're happy for you. However, we all know not to abuse the trust he puts in us or take advantage of his generosity. Salaries are not the best but turnover is near zero here -- someone has to die before a spot will open up in this department, because everyone knows how great it is to work here. Generally everyone does their job well, because they feel respected as adults and are grateful for being treated humanely. You need a good boss and good employees to make this work, but when it does it's win-win for the company and the employees. Too bad more jobs aren't this way.

(PS, we get 12 weeks unpaid maternity (FMLA), and there are no hidden penalties for having children. You can still get plum assignments, promotions, raises, etc. even if you choose to procreate)

Posted by: Loyalty | December 5, 2006 4:50 PM

thw2001, why should an individual make personal decisions based upon the good of the corporation? That sounds a little socialism-esque to me.

If the old Pre-Reagan, 1980's greed-is-good corporation existed, where businesses looked out for employees (whether pensions were gained via unions or goodness-of-the-proprietor's-heart) then fine. But what we see happening today is that corporate profits are maximized and delivered to the CEO in his/her monstor compensation package. And what is not given freely (see Enron Pensions) is stolen in the dark of night.

So. Lets just stop the nonsense about how if the people look out for the corporations, the corporations will look out for the people. There is ZERO evidence to back that up in today's business climate.

Posted by: Please. | December 5, 2006 4:59 PM

To the person who e-mailed me outside this blog, stick to the thread:
You are correct, I do work from home most days. Nevertheless, I created over 500 new jobs for my business/clients/employers all over the US and Germany in the past 12 months. The relationships between me and the people that pay me are complex. Welcome to the new Millennium. Granted, these jobs involve odd hours (night shift) and hard work but they are long-term employment and pay better salary/benefits than most other nearby firms, including child care. Our managers must be understanding and easy to work for or they will not last in this environment. Yet, every time we directly hire someone full-time they quit over the hours they have to work. So we end up hiring temps (mostly mothers with children) to get the work done until we can find people that really want to work those hours. Many of the temps become full-time employees in just a few weeks.

Posted by: thw2001 | December 5, 2006 4:59 PM

I moved to Australia from DC 4 years ago.
It does not surprise me to read that someone didn't get a "fair go" down here.
Australia has a built in bias against anyone who is not white,male or born here.
It is a different society than the one I expected to find. Anyone frustrated with things in the US, look at the bright side,at least there are laws against discimination and people in authority who actually read and enforce those laws occasionally.

Posted by: aussiebones | December 5, 2006 5:00 PM

Here's my obvious question.

When did it become okay to force people to work insane hours?
Work is done to be paid in order to afford to live. It is not a privilege allowing you to become an indentured slave to an entity only concerned with making a profit. For an entity that exists only to create money to force those people that have lives and wish to live them to give up large chunks of said lives bothers me greatly.

Posted by: Joe | December 5, 2006 5:00 PM

CatMom - You frighten and disarm me - seriously. You have issues.

To the subject at heand, I work in a large recruiting firm and can't tell you how many women we have sent in for interviews with clients while they are pregnant. In most cases, these are very senior level positions and our clients are looking for long term solutions - not frightened away by 12 weeks out of the office.

Prior to entering this field, I interviewed with a company while I was 4 months pregnant. I was up front about the situation and was hired for the position - again - employers, at least good ones, seek out the best possible employees.

Posted by: FormerNoVa Mom | December 5, 2006 5:02 PM

Joe - the 13th amendment actually deals with this quite nicely.

Seriously, though, no one is "forced" to work crazy hours. It's a choice. An employer is not obligated to provide you with palatable hours, just as you are not obligated to stick with an employer when you don't like the terms of employment. This is a good thing. If the alternative to working a lot of hours is a job that pays less, that's a choice the employee can and should make for him/herself. Any of the attendant factors that this choice affects - mortgage, commute, etc - are irrelevant when it comes to what the employer should offer. No one guarantees any of us a 9-5 job with a salary that allows a McMansion in the 'burbs and two car payments.

Posted by: pastryqueen | December 5, 2006 5:08 PM

For anyone who can't handle the crazy hours, there are several (non-capitalist)countries that have much lower expectations in terms of work days/hours.

Posted by: catmommy | December 5, 2006 5:13 PM

Oh PLEASE, catmommy. Complaining about the increasingly unreasonable demands made on employees' lives is somehow an endorsement of socialism???
Look, obviously workers in this country have SOME choice--at least within certain professions and certain markets; but see Wal-Mart's practices--of high-paying, long-hour jobs and lower-paid, more life-friendly (not just family-friendly!) jobs. However, freedom of choice is not the be-all and end-all of the discussion. At some point it is beneficial to have some regulation so we don't all work ourselves sick to enrich a couple hundred CEOs.
It is NOT socialism to ask for more humane work expectations.

Posted by: U.S.S.R. here we come | December 5, 2006 5:28 PM

Let's not forget about Wal-Mart's company health plan, otherwise known as Medicaid. Wal-Mart just lets states foot the bill for its "benefits"!

Where I live a very high percentage of Medicaid recipients work for Wal-Mart, so YES, the government is subsidizing their work environment.

You guys need to get over it.

Signing off,
Catmommy

Posted by: catmommy | December 5, 2006 5:33 PM

And what exactly is that supposed to prove other than that Wal-Mart has awful policies?

I was talking about things like not paying overtime or forcing people to work through lunch and so on (so that for some people there is no choice: they both work long hours and make little money).

If you haven't yet picked it up, I highly recommend Barbara Ehrenreich's book "Nickel and Dimed in America"--a kind of investigative report in the world of the working poor. Chilling.

Posted by: U.S.S.R. here we come | December 5, 2006 5:41 PM

I was laid off from my last job when my son was shipped home, wounded in Iraq and I needed to take two lousy days off work. This was at the largest RV manufacturer in the U.S. - one that donated a new coach to the Bush campaign, the CEO and all executives of which are staunch Mormons. So much for "patriotism".

Posted by: Furious In Oregon | December 5, 2006 5:49 PM

Catmommy is saying that we are already approaching socialism.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2006 5:57 PM

"At some point it is beneficial to have some regulation so we don't all work ourselves sick to enrich a couple hundred CEOs."

Sheesh, if we're working ourselves sick, it's not to enrich a couple hundred CEOs, it's to enrich shareholders who have no patience. Those shareholders include a whole lot of us who have no retirement benefits and whose retirements are dependent in large part on the performance of those stocks. Look in the mirror if you want to know who's indirectly driving the increased productivity expectations.

Posted by: NC lawyer | December 5, 2006 6:01 PM

"The key question is whether the interviewer would have asked a male candidate the same type of personal questions. That's what constitutes discrimination."

Not exactly - the interviewer may not ask a male the same questions based on an assumption that even if the male has kids, he wouldn't be primarily responsible for their care and so it wouldn't be an issue. The point is that the interviewer appeared to assume that based solely on the fact that the candidate was a mother, she wouldn't do the job. If the interviewer would make the same assumption about a father, then it would be discrimination based on parental status instead of gender and may not be illegal, depending on local laws. If the interviewer would not make the same assumption about a father, regardless of whether he asked the questions, then the interviewer was discriminating based on sex and it would violate federal law. However, if the interviewer asked the questions of both males and females it would be harder to prove discrimination based on sex. Or at least that's my understanding, any of the many other lawyers who know more should correct as need be!

Posted by: Megan | December 5, 2006 6:05 PM

"Catmommy is saying that we are already approaching socialism."

Wow.
OK, I am speechless.

You know what, let's just kill people who get sick, they are just a burden on the rest of us. Oh, and if you are disabled why should I pay for your social security benefits? Really, it's your problem. As for those retirees, hey, you didn't make megabucks, you go live in a shelter.

Let's step back from the brink people. This country's safety net is pretty threadbare and will get more so.

Posted by: U.S.S.R. here we come | December 5, 2006 6:09 PM

I worked for the same Oregon company as "Furious" and want to drive knowledge of her case home. She WAS terminated for simply taking time off to see her son - no performance or other issues at work, she simply took time off when overtime was required. We have allowed corporations to run amuck in this country. They wave their stupid made in China faux U.S.flags and talk about sacrifice and God and country, but they only believe in profits. The exact same thing can be said about our idiot President and that crew of scounderals he dragged in with him. I hope the Democrats are better, but I seriously doubt it. I'll believe it when I see laws enacted to tax the living snot out of companies that outsource and jail executives who deny thie employees even basic human dignity.

Posted by: Mike | December 5, 2006 6:30 PM

Which company? Name and shame

Posted by: Mark | December 5, 2006 6:43 PM

The descrimination laws in Australia are quite clear and what supposedly happened here is quite illegal.

However, sadly I believe this story was made up or at lease embellished. It is likely that this 40-something was simply not up to the task at hand, and she had to blame it on someone else. I have worked with women like this before and frankly they are not worth the bother. It does not surprise me in the least that she failed the interview.

Posted by: Steve Jones | December 5, 2006 6:47 PM

TO "CatMom - You frighten and disarm me - seriously. You have issues."

Buy a dictionary - "disarm" doesn't mean whatever you apparently think it does.

Posted by: VOCABULARY | December 5, 2006 7:02 PM

Here's an interesting case of equal opportunity bad behavior:

I went with my DH to his annual holiday party and noticed that some of his colleagues treated me like an idiot becuase they think I'm a SAHM (even though I work part time). Today, I spoke with one of my husband's female colleagues who related a funny story about how her SAH husband is now refusing to go to any more office functions with her because, you guessed it, her colleagues also treated HIM like an idiot for being a stay at home parent.

Personally, I think bad behavior is usually equal opportunity. the moron who asked the stupid questions in the job interview probably asks men stupid questions too - maybe different stupid questions, but stupid questions all the same.

Posted by: Armchair mom | December 5, 2006 7:03 PM

Is it really discrimination if the job requires a lot of late nights and weekends? You friend has 2 kids which implies certain things..i.e. that she cannot do insane hours.

Is it discrimination to not hire a scrawny guy to be a bouncer or a 300 obese woman to be a pizza delivery person? How about not hiring a white guy to be a community leader in a black ghetto neighborhood?

Posted by: notreally | December 5, 2006 7:04 PM

Really, you are entirely missing the point. Why does having 2 kids mean someone can't or doesn't want to handle a job that requires a lot of late nights and weekends?

I am baffled that you see parenting as an absolute barrier to job performance, in the same way as your other examples. Are there no workaholic, single breadwinner, or otherwise driven parents in your workplace? Methinks you need to get out a little more . . .

btw, I have two kids and was the top performing person -- out of 190 -- in my unit this year, based on objective sales/performance criteria. and I'm a woman. There are plenty of late nights and weekends on my plate and I'm betting I can work circles around you and still have a family life.

Posted by: to not really | December 5, 2006 7:13 PM

"Is it really discrimination if the job requires a lot of late nights and weekends? You friend has 2 kids which implies certain things..i.e. that she cannot do insane hours."
- If you ask the question "can you work insane hours?" then it wouldn't be discrimination.
- If you ask "do you have children?" and then ASSUME that because she does, she cannot work the required hours, then it is discrimination. Whether she has children or not is irrelevant to whether she can do the job.

Posted by: Mark | December 5, 2006 7:14 PM

What company...Monaco Coach. No with an ounce of self respect would even consider buying anything they make.

Posted by: Mike | December 5, 2006 7:29 PM

Mike -- Thanks for outing them. That is one of the most heinous workplace stories I have heard in a very long time. So much for American heroes serving their country and being respected when they come home. Vietnam all over again.

Leslie -- Can you alert the investigative staff at the WP on this very interesting personal interest story? I for one would love to know more!

Posted by: Curious | December 5, 2006 8:21 PM

On the subject of maternity pay - I am a firm believer in it, although there is no statutory right to it here in Aus. Make me president of somewhere and all women would have mat leave payments until the saggy baby-stomach disappeared.... a long time in my case! Is that asking too much?

Kirsten

Posted by: Kirsten | December 5, 2006 9:57 PM

OK, I am coming in late to this game. But I don't understand why most of you would care about corporate loyalty. Companies have shown almost zero loyalty to their employees since the 70s. Except for a few companies and the government, it appears that most business function to make a profit. They will throw you out at a drop of a hat. Besides burning your bridges, I don't think you owe any employer more then a few months notice for professional jobs and for menial labor jobs 2 weeks notice. The companies could care less about YOU, so look out for yourself. As far the parents and pregnancy questions. In a lot of agencies, even once your hired, it is against their policy for you to directly ask your subordinates these type of questions. Unless, the employee wants to share this information with you, you are not to bring it up. Of course in private get to know you conversations, I am sure these things are discussed all the time. But that is where it has to remain. Just a private conversation. I have never met soo many Anti-children people as I have on this board. Parents, both mothers and fathers, make up a significant portion of the US work force. They better well not make it so difficult that a large number drop out. As far as mothers working crazy hours, some mothers want to do that. I know a mother that leaves for work before her two preschoolers are up in the morning. Comes home after they have gone to bed. And works in the office 1/2 day every Saturday. Kind of nutty parenting to me but that was her choice. Don't assume all mothers run to the beck and call of their children.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 6, 2006 7:43 AM

Don't forget that the company has to make a choice, and it should not be punished for refusing to support the choice that a parent made for having children.

Posted by: kids are a choice | December 6, 2006 8:21 AM

Notreally asked:
"Is it discrimination to not hire a scrawny guy to be a bouncer..."

It's not legally discrimination, but it's stupid to just look at a guy and not hire him based on his size. You don't know any martial arts, do you? A little skinny guy who does (like one bouncer I've known) is worth ten big guys with no training, and is equivalent to a big guy who is trained. Size is not an advantage.

Why would you assume that someone with kids can't do late hours? My peers all have kids and can--and do.

But they're men. Is that the difference, that they could not if they were female?

Posted by: The grain of salt in the pepper jar | December 6, 2006 9:08 AM

disarm
One entry found for disarm.

Main Entry: dis·arm
Pronunciation: dis-'ärm, diz-, 'dis-"ärm
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English desarmen, literally, to divest of arms, from Anglo-French desarmer, from des- dis- + armer to arm

transitive verb
"1 a : to deprive of means, reason, or disposition to be hostile b : to win over"

Posted by: maybe you should buy one too | December 6, 2006 9:43 AM

Regarding workers who quit after only one year and what loyalty you owe an employer: Someone said, "It costs a lot to train up a worker" and that so much is lost if they quit so soon. Well, I am getting very very little training at the job I have now. I was told I could "create my own position", and I realize it's because no one above me has time or interest in showing me what needs to be done and how. In fact, they actively discourage questions and shrug off my attempts to get information. So, I'm creating my own position, and yes, when I'm ready to leave, I'll leave. I feel absolutely no loyalty. They pay me, I do the work, we are each free to dissolve the relationship when we see fit. That's life at work, today. If you actually have deep loyalty to your job, then I hope it won't break your heart when they one day lay you off. Some of the most loyal and hardworking people I've known have been laid off and treated almost like criminals as they were shown the door. Sorry, if a company isn't loyal to me, I owe it no loyalty.

Posted by: Trish | December 6, 2006 10:47 AM

I interviewed for jobs while pregnant with my second child, and I only got one offer from a little firm, even though I was number one in my class and had worked at the largest law firm in the state previously. That is because I decided, in my opinion, that I would just tell everyone I was pregnant and see what happened. If they did not want to hire me because of that, I did not want to work there anyway. I am still in the job I got while pregnant, starting my third year soon, and loving it. Everyone here is good about work/life balance, and isn't that what it is all about anyway?

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to catmommmy

Is it ok to ask how many cats a potential employee has in an interview, and then make assumptions about that person's cleanliness and mental stability?

-----------

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