The pregnancy issue: Don’t ask. Don’t tell
Published: April 22, 2022
Not knowing the law is dangerous
She applied for a university position and was immediately invited to a job interview. During the interview, the professor asked some general questions but was at least equally interested in her private life. She limited her answers to job-relevant information and did not mention her pregnancy.
Several days later she received an email from the professor. “I am pleased to offer you the position. When can you start?” She didn’t hesitate long and picked up her phone: “I am very happy about your job offer, but I want to let you know at this point that I am pregnant. Still, I have …” “I’m sorry, I can no longer offer you the position under these circumstances,” he interrupted her, and added: “But I don’t blame you.” She didn’t want to give up that easily and insisted: “But isn’t there a way we can figure this out?” To which he replied: “Well, you can always look for new positions on the departmental website.” And that was the end of the conversation.
That professor lacked a fundamental knowledge of labour law. Not knowing the law pertaining to the hiring of and collaboration with employees as a group leader, however, is dangerous. Otherwise, your research might easily be put on hold because you are asked to appear in court.
The professor got lucky as the applicant had other plans than filing a suit. Still, that suit would have had good chances of success since the Maternal Protection Law (German: Mutterschutzgesetz) and equality laws (German: Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz) are unambiguous here. A happy boss would probably not have been part of the settlement, though.