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Boss Asks If They’re Wrong To Punish Pregnant Employee For Not Being As Productive As Usual

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The culture around working in America can be incredibly toxic.  We get very little paid time off over the course of a year, and maternity/paternity programs are incredibly difficult to be awarded.

Reddit user Unfair-Raspberry-108 is a purveyor of this culture.  When a pregnant employee saw her deliverables reduced, he took disciplinary action against her.

Unsure now if he made the right move, he went to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole?” or “AITA” for perspective.

He asked:

“AITA for telling an employee that pregnancy is not an excuse for low productivity?”

The original poster, or OP, talked about the nature of his relationship to the employee.

“I work in an office (due to the nature of our work and our employer, we are not working remotely right now) where I supervise a team of three people.”

“The end of the year is our crunch time, and it means that my entire team is putting in more hours than normal and everyone is expected to answer their phones and emails pretty much round the clock (Christmas excepted, of course).”

“Most of my team is doing great, except for one woman I’ll call Cara. Cara told me two weeks ago that she is pregnant, and she is about 10 weeks along.”

“The only reason she told me in the first place was because I had to write her up for not being as available as she needed to be.”

Cara’s pregnancy has clearly been difficult, though OP has failed to understand that.

“She was calling in sick at least once a week for the past four weeks, and when she was at the office she was not 100% focused on her work.”

“She explained that she has severe morning sickness, and that she has been vomiting multiple times per day, and some days she needed to take off.”

“I agreed to work with her, and told her that she can come in later and stay later if she needs to to get around the morning sickness, but she apparently is sick all day.”

OP thinks he has made adequate concessions.

“I made other concessions, too. I am allowing time off for doctor’s appointments and allowing her to take more frequent breaks throughout the day (apparently she can no longer eat a regular lunch, and must eat multiple times during the day?).”

“This all seemed perfectly reasonable to me, as long as she held up her part of the bargain and maintained her productivity during this stressful time.”

Cara, however, continues to be challenged.

“Well, she has not. She has called out sick once already since then, and she has not made herself available for calls during off hours.”

“My other staff is staying at the office until 8 or 9 in the evening, but Cara is out by 6 and apparently goes straight to sleep when she gets home and keeps her phone muted during that time.”

“We have had to scramble to cover for her. Her work quality has also suffered, as apparently she has difficulty concentrating due to headaches and won’t take anything for them.”

OP then decided to give the pregnant woman a talk about her pregnancy.

“I sat her down yesterday and relayed my concerns. She acknowledged how her lack of productivity has hurt the rest of the staff, but claimed that she is physically struggling a great deal.”

“I told her that was no excuse, because she is only in her first trimester and barely even pregnant yet.”

“I also questioned whether it was fair to other women that she was using a normal bodily function as an excuse for low productivity–this is what women fought to counteract during the feminist movement. She said she understood and would try to do better.”

OP’s wife called it out.

“I told my wife about it, and she called me an a**hole, saying that I have no idea how hard pregnancy can be.”

“I just think that it is unfair for an entire staff to pick up someone’s slack because they made a personal decision to become pregnant.”

“So, AITA?”

Anonymous strangers on the internet were asked if and where guilt belongs by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
  • NAH – No A**holes Here

Redditors did not mince words—OP is the a**hole.

“YTA. It sounds like she has HG. OP, you might not know what it is, but I am still recovering from it. It hits you in the first trimester, and before modern medicine, you could die from it.”

“That’s not me being dramatic, it’s a fact. You vomit so much you start to dehydrate. You can fall into a coma. You can die from malnourishment.”

“I lost over 13% of my body weight in a month time, was hospitalized three times and it took me six weeks AFTER the HG had passed to get me back on track physically.”

“Your employee is SICK. She may have chosen to get pregnant, but she didn’t chose to get sick because of it.”

“Whether she really has HG or not is up for a doctor to decide, but she needs support and medical aid, not a supervisor that complains about ‘slacking’ because they don’t understand how much of a strain her body is put under right now.”

“I’m going to say this loudly. You need to stop pushing her right now, because if she gets a miscarriage due to mental and/or physical stress it will be your fault.”

“If you’re in the USA, then that’s TA too, because the laws don’t protect sick and/or pregnant employees like they do where I live.”~Trania86

“Can we take a moment and put aside the whole pregnant employee issue to acknowledge that OP is the TA regardless for how he treats his staff in general?”

“Forcing your employees to work 12 hours during crunch time instead of bringing in additional help or paying overtime is really sh*tty.”

“I mean I realize times are especially tough right now but it sounds like this has been the trend for a long time.”

“And answering your phone around the clock? I just can’t imagine a scenario where that is justified for an office job.”~portezbie

“YTA – your wife is right, you have no effing clue what you’re talking about. People like you are why we have to have anti-discrimination laws. I hope this is a troll.”~f1shandwhistle

“YTA. You are STRONGLY, EMPHATICALLY the **shole. Imagine being nauseous and vomiting throughout the day, every day, for weeks.”

“It is exhausting to vomit once, let alone multiple times a day. Some women have easy pregnancies, some have difficult pregnancies.”

“Calling pregnancy ‘a normal bodily function’ and claiming she is using it as an excuse is utterly ridiculous. How would you treat one of your non-pregnant employees if they were sick, or injured?”

“Would you expect someone with COVID to be 100% productive? Jesus. There are no words to describe how much you are TA.”~Cry-mydia

After all, his wife is right.

There is no way he could possibly understand.

“HR (and 2x former pregnant) person here: all I could think while reading this was ‘God i hope she recorded this or got it in writing.'”

“(Which, if you’re issuing warnings/ threats over performance concerns you should be documenting so you don’t face run of the mill unwarranted termination suits) so she can get her medical bills, all extracurricular activities, and college paid for for this baby with her discrimination lawsuit.”

“OP: YTA – big time. I had my tubes removed during my 2nd c-section because my body literally could not take the physical pain and literal exhaustion, sleeplessness, mental strain, and overall stress of pregnancy again.”~courtneyisacoolmom

“YTA. This must be a joke right? Please tell me this is a terrible joke. No no no no. The first trimester of pregnancy is incredibly taxing on a woman.”

“Her sleeping immediately going home is probably exactly what is happening. She is exerting more energy and burning more calories growing a human than you do during any workout.”

“Hyperemesis gravidarum is a true condition. Morning sickness is just a saying. Women really are sick all day. Some more than others. To get around that you eat more frequent meals.”

“You also have a million hormones raging (the whole growing a human part….) and that makes you go to the bathroom more often. And you don’t ‘let’ someone have time off for dr visits.”

“She is pregnant and she is a protected class. If she wants to call out due to extreme nausea/vomiting she can.”

“And other women in the office should be made aware of your misogynistic attitude towards pregnancy and women in general.”

“This is straight up discrimination and if I was her I would be calling HR and a lawyer.”~Leolover812

“YTA. No way a real person could be this obtuse.”

“For anyone curious, morning sickness does indeed last all day and varies in severity from pregnancy to pregnancy.”

“Pregnant women are frequently encouraged to eat small meals throughout the day instead of a few large ones to help with blood sugar, nausea, and other symptoms.”

“Exhaustion and headaches are common first trimester symptoms.”

“You can’t be ‘barely even pregnant’- you either are pregnant or you are not. Mandating that staff work while off duty skates very close to violating labor laws, if it’s not outright illegal.”

“This whole post reads as fake because no company would flirt with this many violations and lawsuits.”~aSeaPersonByNight

“Please god let this be a troll…. Just in case YTA.”

“Some women can skip through pregnancy, with giggles and rainbows, looking like a tampon commercial.”

“Others live in the deepest bowels of hell, fighting a never ending battle against themselves, others and the dreaded smells.”

“You unfortunately never how this is going to affect you.”

“Unless your company has it written somewhere that during the holidays you are required to ‘put in more hours than normal and everyone is expected to answer their phones and emails pretty much round the clock…'”

“Then once she is off the clock she doesn’t have to answer her phone and (if she is hourly) you can get into trouble for even requiring that. (U.S. HR Rules). YTA.”~thefr0stypenguin0

And after all, people are desperate for jobs right now due to the pandemic and OP appears to be taking advantage of that.

“YTA.  First of all, if employees are not paid during the off hours then they should not be required to answer office phones and emails during those hours. You pay for work done. Period.”

“‘I told her that was no excuse, because she is only in her first trimester and barely even pregnant yet,’ WTF. Pregnant is pregnant- there is no ‘barely pregnant.’ You are or you aren’t.”

“She’s vomiting constantly and can’t keep anything down. You want her on the phone with a customer doing that? Just yakking up into the toilet on the phone?”

“It’s hard for me to believe this is real. She’s already going to work pregnant during a pandemic which is ill-advised, but you apparently don’t care about that.”

“If your office needs more workers for the holidays your employer should hire them, not force everybody else to work round the clock.”

“Frankly it’s disgusting to take advantage of the fact that people are desperate for a job right now.”~thiswasyouridea

“YTA. Pregnancy is hard on a body. Especially the first trimester. Yes, it’s her personal decision to have a baby.”

“Where is your humanity and compassion? This is a medical matter. You are completely unsupportive. Would you want your wife, mother or sisters to be treated this way?”~Catz10000

“Might I suggest you do some things to understand what she is going through and will be going through soon:”

  1. “Have someone punch you in the gut and kick your ribs
  2. Every time you eat, make sure you throw up after
  3. Want a drink? Try it and then throw up
  4. Want to know how tired she is? Don’t sleep for days and see if you can function
  5. Think of the nastiest smelling thing, and go smell it. That’s probably what her favorite things smell like right now
  6. Want to lay flat on your back? Well you can’t because you’ll get raging heartburn and it’ll be hard to breath”

“There’s lots more but I need to take care of the almost 8lb baby I pushed out of my 10cm dilated cervix without pain meds and had the pleasure of feeling every stitch afterwards. YTA.”~NottheNSA94

“YTA. your wife is right, you couldn’t possibly know anything about pregnancy.”

“Not to mention it’s different for everyone; while one woman might have a very easy pregnancy, for another it might be absolute hell.”

“If she has cancer and needed frequent time off for doctor’s appointments and sick days, would you still think you needed to ‘relay your concerns?'”

“Why is this situation different just because what she’s going through is female-specific?”

“And it’s very, very entitled of you to tell her she’s being ‘unfeminist’ by doing her best to work around her obviously very difficult pregnancy.”

“This woman is growing another human inside her body. It’s a constant and incredibly taxing ordeal that doesn’t take mornings off.”

“She needs your support and understanding, not disdain and lectures about feminism. If you think your staff is struggling, consider this: you’re understaffed!”

“Hire someone new to help reduce the strain on your team. There’s plenty of people looking for jobs right now.”

“YTA, YTA, YTA.”~vox1028

Reddit let their thoughts be known. OP is to blame.

Hopefully he takes steps to make amends.

Written by Mike Walsh

Mike is a writer, dancer, actor, and singer who recently graduated with his MFA from Columbia University. Mike's daily ambitions are to meet new dogs and make new puns on a daily basis. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @mikerowavables.