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In the past two months, I have been asked by multiple female resident physicians, "How do I handle being asked about pregnancy or family plans during an interview?" First and foremost, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it is illegal for a potential employer to discriminate against you due to pregnancy. In 1978, Title VII was amended to include pregnancy. Even if you are visibly nine months pregnant with quintuplets, they legally cannot ask if you are pregnant.
So, what should you do if you are asked that question? First, politely decline to answer the question. You do not need to explain other than the fact that it is illegal, and you do not feel comfortable answering it. You can always reference the legality of the question since it is protected by law. There is also a possibility the question was asked innocently by the recruiter.
If your interviewer continues to ask you the question or brings up childbearing plans, remember you are not required to stay at the interview. If you begin to feel uncomfortable politely decline to answer, thank them for their time, and end the interview early. I would also ask for contact information for their boss or supervisor from the receptionist or operator so you can contact the appropriate party about the interviewer's actions. How the organization handles the situation can be a crucial indicator to you if this is an organization you want to work for or leave in your past. You need to let someone higher up in the organization know about your interview experience because this may be an unknown issue to them, or to set up a new interview.
If you are pregnant while job searching, do not feel like it will hinder you because you are in charge of your relationship with your physician recruiter. If you feel comfortable letting them know early on in your interview process, then let them know. Just like with any job interview, you should talk about any concerns that you have. If you are nervous that you will need to take maternity leave shortly after starting, talk with your recruiter about it. Since they are not allowed to ask you, they will have no real notion until you tell them.
Many organizations are aware that their female physicians may need to take time off at some point in their employment for maternity leave. You should work with your recruiter or the appropriate team member to discuss what options are available to you. This could be as simple as helping you choose the right start date to receive family leave through the hospital, or letting you know about the different childcare options in the area.
Do not be fearful as you go into your job search. Remember that the law is on your side and that you should never feel uncomfortable during an interview. If you feel uncomfortable during the interview and let the appropriate channels know and they side with the recruiter, this is most likely not the right fit for you because of deeper issues.
Hayley Woszczynski - Physician & Program Relations Manager. You can stay connected with me on LinkedIn for all of the latest PracticeMatch articles and upcoming events.