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@Work Advice: Karla Miller on when you should tell an employer you’re pregnant

Reader: I am in the early stages of a job search and in the early stages of pregnancy. If things go well, when do I need to let potential employers know I am expecting? I don’t want to start a job with the perception that I was deceptive, but I don’t want to give potential employers grounds for discrimination, even if they do not intend to discriminate.

Karla: This answer involves a complicated algorithm of legal, practical and ethical issues, and there’s no one “right” solution. (Welcome to motherhood.)

Scenario One: You tell. Legally, the employer can’t reject you for being pregnant. Practically, between two equally qualified candidates, would you bet on the one with no known prior commitments, or the one who will need at least six weeks’ leave in her first year?

Scenario Two: You don’t tell. Legally, you don’t have to. Ethically, not telling might create bad blood. And you could still — legally — end up jobless if the employer refuses to let you take personal leave you haven’t earned yet. Federal law allows 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but only for workers employed for a year in companies of a certain size.

My advice: Keep the news under your Bellaband while you discreetly gauge how mommy-friendly the place is and how well it could absorb your absence. (Ask current and former employees, not HR, about work-life balance.) Consider also the cards you hold; how in-demand are you in this economy?

If you decide you should tell, wait for an offer letter. Then, explain that you’ll need time off for your prior commitment. There’s no guarantee the offer won’t somehow be withdrawn. But if the employer says, “No problem, when can you start?” make sure you spend your pre-maternity-leave months earning goodwill as a star performer.

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Reader: My husband and I have decided to have another baby. I would like to work from home. If I cannot, I would rather quit and stay home with the child. We can afford this. When do I approach my boss?

Karla: Keep your procreative plans on the DL for now. If nothing else, think of the unwanted images “I’m trying to get pregnant” conjures.

But why not lay the groundwork now? Present a non-child-centered case for telecommuting occasionally. If the boss approves, you’ll have set a precedent for yourself — and for co-workers who might have their own valid reasons, besides kids, for wanting to work from home.

Thanks to Tracy Gonos of Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch, P.C., and Nancy DiSciullo of Profiles for their legal/ethical/practical insights.

Karla Miller lives with her family in South Riding, Va. For 16 years, she has written for and edited tax publications. Send your questions to wpmagazine@washpost.com.

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