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Not long after my wife informed her Lead she was pregnant, the Lead sat her down and encouraged her to consider quitting in order to be with the family. We plan to go to the HR department about this soon. I will detail out more context below, but to cut to the chase I just want to know a) Has the Lead actually broken any laws by encouraging my wife to quit in order to be with family and b) are there any other obvious next steps we could be taking?

No serious adverse actions have been taken against my wife yet other than that her superiors had a performance meeting with her and treated her as though she was guilty of doing a poor job, and now they are monitoring her closely.

Before meeting

  • Wife tells Lead of pregnancy.
  • Lead meets with wife to encourage her to quit and spend time with family.
  • Lead visibly upset when my wife explains she wants to keep working.
  • Wife later inquires whether there were any issues with her performance. Lead says no and specifically clarifies that the conversation was really only about her concern for my wife's well being with raising her children.

  • Lead asks direct reports to video tape themselves working with the idea that they will receive constructive criticism.

  • At the same time Lead shared constructive criticism with my wife, criticisms were also emailed to their Supervisor, before any opportunity was given to make improvements based on criticisms.
  • Lead met privately with Supervisor and scheduled performance meeting with my wife.

During meeting

  • Lead's Supervisor asks if my wife had since shown improvement. Lead responds yes.
  • One a prior day Lead instructed my wife to observe Lead as Lead worked and take notes. In the meeting, Supervisor berates my wife for taking notes instead of working. Lead fails to speak up and share that my wife was following direct instructions.
  • Lead and Supervisor give criticism over petty points found in work video my wife was asked to make. Imagine reprimanding an Algebra teacher for not stopping to teach students basic addition every time they made an adding mistake (and imagine that many of same teacher's students from prior years generally qualified for advanced classes). It was something that, if my wife had stopped to do it, they could have just as easily accused her of not accomplishing the thing which she was actively working on. Basically, it feels very much like the whole thing was a planned attempt to contrive evidence against her rather than a genuine attempt to provide constructive criticism.
  • Other points of criticism were points that both Lead and other coworkers have struggled with at various times.
  • Lead and Supervisor asked wife what she will do to improve her performance, but did not provide any guidance as to what steps she should take. Instead they will continue to monitor her more in order to provide further guidance (or fabricate more "evidence", depending on your point of view).

After meeting

  • Wife asks lead if she wants her there next year. Lead responds that she does not.
  • Wife says it would be hard to find another job while pregnant. Lead encourages her not to share that she is pregnant.
  • Lead says she is tired of holding my wife's hand for past 3 years, despite having told her very recently she was doing fine and having repeatedly told her she was doing a good job over the past years.

Other notes:

  • In addition to Lead's own repeated approval of my wife's performance up until now, my wife has a great work history at same job at other workplaces, consistently performing better than her predecessors everywhere she has worked.
  • Even her current performance is better than that of those who came before her at this workplace.
  • Lead has at times given conflicting advice. One day says "Don't do X" and another day says "You need to be doing X".

And there are other points I could make as well, but not without being more specific than I would like.

Edit

To be clear, my question about what further actions we can take is in the same line as if someone had a car accident then there are certain steps you take such as getting the other person's information, taking pictures, contacting insurance, possibly filing police report, etc. None of these things are specific legal advice, and though they may be considered "common sense" many people fail to do these things until it is too late. So I am just trying to ensure there are no obvious steps I am overlooking to do now that I will regret not doing later. It sounds like there aren't since no one has offered any, but that's where my question was going.

I also would have thought my question about whether it's illegal to encourage and/or pressure someone to quit their job after becoming pregnant would be simple yes/no answer after knowing some basic context such as type of business and location. But perhaps I'm wrong about that? And perhaps I should be clear and state that I am not asking whether I might be able to meet the burden of proof to succeed in court on such an issue; I know that a question like that can't be answered here. I'm just wondering whether any laws exist prohibiting it.

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    This is not legal advice, it is employment advice: do not expect HR to be "on your side." HR works for management and may be the ones telling the lead what it takes to fire your wife. In a great company they can sometimes be helpful, but do not expect to get help. – Tiger Guy Feb 11 at 18:14
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    Questions (a) and (b) are things you need to consult a lawyer about. This site is not for getting legal advice on specific situations. – Nate Eldredge Feb 12 at 4:05
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    @NateEldredge Really? Please see my edit and feel free to reiterate your point if you still think otherwise. Thanks! – BVernon Feb 12 at 4:34
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    Asking what actions you should take is the paradigm case of asking for legal advice. Don't ask questions like that here. – user6726 Feb 12 at 6:45
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    If one or two employees (not the company, it’s two people) discriminate in a way that opens up the company to legal consequences, you may find that HR does what’s best for the company, and that is not allowing the discrimination. – gnasher729 Feb 12 at 9:19
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I can't stress this enough: Document everything as it seems like the management are building a case against her by "Moving the Goal Posts" i.e. the don't do this thing/do the thing we told you not to do.

Your wife needs to get copies of every e-mail exchanged with her and the bosses, as well as any e-mails between co-workers that are relevant as well as any print outs of performance documents. Keep these in a place where they can be filed and looked at on your own... you want them out of office to the greatest extent possible. If you can't remove them, make sure she has pertinent information about who's addresses were sent the e-mail and the date it was sent, with a note of possible importance.

In addition, if you are not already doing this, your wife should find someone in the company who she trusts and ask them if she can BCC them on any e-mails she sends to management (including replies to e-mails they sent). BCC (or blind carbon copy) sends a copy of the e-mail to the address listed in the BCC line, but will hide that person from being seen by other recipients of the email (including if you have multiple addresses in the BCC line). This allows further copies of documentation that is preserved incase an "accident" happens to her account. The best people to ask should be people who your wife trusts, who are out of her management chain (their supervisor isn't her supervisor) and has some experience with the company. Be sure she asks for permission to do this first, as the goal of this is not just evidence preservation but also witness creation. Her bosses might not turn over any response e-mails she sent to them and won't turn over anything that makes them look bad.

I would also get copies of company policies with respect to termination of employment and the process that needs to be gone through, as well as their harassment policy and equal opportunity employment policy. You also want to get copies of her employment contracts and any benefits listings she signed for and compare those with Texas laws on discrimination. As always, if you're not sure if it's something that could be helpful, err on the side that it is, and save it.

Here's a link to the Texas Workforce Commission's brief list of "To Dos" regarding pregnancies and I'm sure taking a look at the sight for other related matters will help.

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    The BCC advice is very dangerous because it is not uncommon for management to have access to employees' work mail. I did come across employment contracts and company policies where this possibility was made clear. – Greendrake Feb 14 at 13:52
  • That's part of why I said you should ask first, because you're trying to make the fellow employee a witness against the company. Typically the work e-mail access is done through e-mail servers. – hszmv Feb 14 at 14:17
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So, it appears that now that they know she's pregnant and will in some months be causing a serious financial drain on the company due to maternity leave and them either having to find a temporary replacement or miss out on her production, they're looking for excuses to terminate her on some other ground that is actually legal ground for termination that doesn't open them up for a discrimination lawsuit.

Sounds typical of some sorts of managers, I'm sad to say I've seen it often enough in relation to other things that lead to regular or extended absense due to health reasons.

Is it legal? Probably. Is it ethical? Questionable.

Document everything, and if she does end up getting terminated on some technicality or other, present everything to a lawyer and get them to ponder whether it's enough to go on and go to court to demand some sort of compensation.

In the meantime, I think she should probably go and prepare for finding another job elsewhere, because it looks like her professional relationship with her superiors has been seriously tainted, which doesn't make for a pleasant work environment. That may be within another department in the same company (HR or other coworkers may help there) or with another company entirely.

Or she can take the original advise of her superior and become a stay at home mom for your child that's coming. Many (maybe even most) women find that extremely rewarding and I know that when I was a child having my mom at home and not being stuck in daycare every day was great, so it's good for the child as well.

  • On what basis do you conclude that it is probably legal? – user6726 Feb 14 at 15:59
  • Oh, trust me when we were having our first two kids I really wanted her to be a stay at home mom. But after 5 years of marriage I've come to the realization that not only would she not be happy as a house wife, she is just not very good at it (in regard to organizational and other desirable skills). So we use some of the extra money she makes to hire a house cleaner slash nanny to come in a couple times a week. – BVernon Feb 16 at 21:20
  • And yes, she will be looking for a new job but the nature of her profession is such that she will necessarily be working here a bit longer and it's unknown whether she will need to continue for another year or not before finding employment elsewhere. So, honestly, I am mostly just interested in the threat of legal action simply to make people treat her with respect until she can transition to another job. – BVernon Feb 16 at 21:24

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