Legal compliance is always a hot topic, so we like to cover the issues that routinely crop up, and present questions. The quick and simple answer to the title question is, “No”. You may not, legally, refuse to hire a person simply because she is pregnant or possibly going to become pregnant. So you would think this issue would end without additional needed information, right? Well, according to the HR Daily Advisor Newsletter, “Some managers think that if the applicant is pregnant they should be able to refuse to hire because the applicant will be missing weeks of work right after starting.” So maybe there is some confusion among hiring managers and HR Professionals.
I recently interviewed someone who directly told me in the interview, “I am getting married and plan on starting a family.” She offered this information in response to a question I asked regarding future employment goals. So what did I do? Did I immediately “disqualify” her in my mind and create bias because of the possibility she might have a problem pregnancy, as well as potentially need time off after delivery of her baby?
I must admit, the potential time off issue entered my mind, and I did ask myself, “Will she want to work after having a baby?” Yet I dismissed these “what if’s” for exactly what they were: what if’s. After all, I had no idea what her future time off requirements might be, and I certainly had no idea what her health would be during a pregnancy so I realized I was creating stories in my head that quite likely would never come to fruition, opposed to simply looking for the best candidate for my company’s opening.
Additionally, I had a team in place that would handle whatever business needs came our way and I fully believed I was possibly speaking with the most qualified, suitable candidate for our open position. So after the selection process was completed, I hired her! She had the experience, skills and abilities our company needed and was looking for. So she got the job, irrespective of the fact she admittedly wanted to start a family soon. I looked at this candidate as any other candidate and asked myself, “Is she the person who can move our company forward in the capacity we need her to?” And that’s what I based my final decision upon.
I think if we stick to the basics and continually seek the most qualified, suitable applicants for our open positions, and maintain fair, equitable hiring practices that take our organizations where we want them to go, we can stop asking ourselves, “Can we legally refuse to hire a pregnant applicant?” and replace it with “What am I costing my company if I fail to hire a pregnant applicant who happens to be the best person for the job?”
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