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Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies (nytimes.com)
343 points by rafaelc on June 15, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 456 comments



Personally experienced it. Wife worked at Google, had always positive performance reviews. Come pregnancy time she informed her manager, 3 days later they put her on a performance improvement plan. It didn't take long for them to realize they were making a big mistake, risking an expensive lawsuit so they let it go and let her have her paid 12 month leave. After returning she got the choice to do the PIP or take severance and leave. We had twins so she wasn't going back to work anyway but the fact that they tried left us with a bad taste.

EDIT: Let's call the company by name indeed.


My wife interviewed at Google and was asked how she'd be able to meet the requirements of the job while taking care of young children; the discrimination persists even after pregnancy.


There's something that has always nagged at me in these discussions, and I've always been somewhat afraid to bring it up lest I misconstrue, but I want to try and figure this out.

What's a state of affairs we can reach such that people don't become preemptively discriminatory for lack of being able to examine factors that would impact workplace performance? We agree, societally, that we shouldn't discriminate against parents. However, we don't live in a world where a business is spared the cost incurred by that. That's just not the pragmatic reality of employment in the US at this time, and my fear is that if unable to ask "do you have a good track record or gameplan for keeping up with the unique obligations of childbearing" we'll err on the side of paranoia in hiring, and the discrimination will occur in seeking to AVOID potential conflict or discrimination.

A govt stipend was one way I could see this, in that the business doesn't have to bear the cost and can offload work. I'd still be concerned that a business might be afraid about context switching/onboarding, but it's a step forward. Unfortunately, I don't even see that becoming a reality in a country where paternity leave is still the exception and not the rule.

There almost seems to be a "psychological game theory" question lodged in there, apologies if I was rambly in stating it.


> However, we don't live in a world where a business is spared the cost incurred by that.

We also live in a world where the stock market ceases to exist if there isn’t a new generation of consumers and workers. (Facebook’s stock price is predicated on the idea that 1 years from now there will still be young people to advertise to.) Children create internalized costs (to parents, to businesses that hire parents), but large positive externalities.

We address that situation by categorically prohibiting discrimintion. Yes, businesses aren’t spared the costs of dealing with peoples’ parental obligations. But it doesn’t matter because that is a cost all businesses have to accommodate (just like the cost of providing for bathroom breaks and lunch breaks and other accommodations for human needs).


So here's a concrete example of the types of problems existencebox is highlighting:

My sister was laid off from her employer of 8 years 3 months after her first child was born. She was a top performer, and they'd been throwing raises and bonuses at her before she got pregnant. Over the same year or so (there were 3-4 rounds of layoffs), every single pregnant woman or mother with kids under 2 that she knew at the company was also laid off.

I mention this story, and people ask me "Is that even legal?"

And my response is "Of course it's not, but if you've got a 3 month old newborn at home, have just been laid off, and are trying to conserve cash so you don't go bankrupt before getting another job (which, BTW, you will never get if you sue your former employer), are you really going to sue them? Where will you find the money? Where will you find the lawyer? Where will you find the time?"

And then even if you do, they are going to trot out a multimillion-$ defense team who will argue that they laid off 40% of the company, they sold off a business division, the price of oil was down 2/3 from its peak, and all of the layoffs were necessary for the survival of the company. All of which might or might not be true. Look at just a few women's story and it's pretty clear they're breaking the law, but factor in macroeconomic concerns and you can muddy in the waters just enough that they might win.

That's the problem. "It's illegal" does not automatically mean that you can't get away with it. In fact, if you're wealthy and pick the right targets, you can get away with a damn lot of things that are illegal.


It is free to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC if you are in the US. They will investigate your claims and attempt to settle them with your employer. If your employer is unwilling to settle they can and do often sue on your behalf to ensure an equitable outcome. Additionally the Department of Labor will investigate your claims and can bring enforcement actions on your behalf. Additionally pregnancy is considered disability therefore you can also lodge an ADA complaint with the DOJ who will investigate your claims and bring enforcement actions on your behalf.

To say you have no options is incorrect. Bona fide violations of law are routinely handled by these agencies at no cost to the victim and are very often successful.

https://www.eeoc.gov/federal/fed_employees/filing_complaint....

https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/conciliation_litigat...

https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/fmla/13.aspx

Edit: ADA to DOJ

https://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm


This is not true. If you're an employee actually brave enough to pursue a discrimination a complaint with the EEOC understand that you will be blacklisted and/or subject to retaliation by various firms (not just your immediate employer). EEOC understands that retaliation is rampant [1] but America's very pro-business courts have made it impossible to prove in court. It is hardly "free" and certainly not recommended for most employees to pursue an EEOC complaint.

[1] https://www.bna.com/eeoc-ponders-ways-n17179928871/


If you work in an incestuous industry like tech, you will be blacklisted in many circles for going down this path.


And as always, even worse-- You won't ever know if you just aren't up to snuff as an engineer / interviewer or if one or more of your interviewers, recruiters or hiring agents knows of and/or participates in such "blacklisting"

Which is also illegal, but companies openly get away with it every day.

The worst that ever happens is a slap on the wrist when all the major companies have non recruitment ("no poaching") agreements with each other, suppress wages, get caught, and have to pay a token fine.


Those situations can often be solved in much the same way. If someone is giving out malicious references due to an enforcement action, you report it to the EEOC or other agencies. That is also a violation and can result in further action on your behalf. Many states have statutes on the books against blacklisting and you may be able to engage the state DOL or other agencies to help you. These agencies have the full weight of the federal or state government behind them and are not in the habit of losing enforcement actions.


This is not likely to be the case. It is not so easy to pursue a retaliation complaint. I suggest you look at the case law history here. America is not France where the courts almost always side with employees. It's just the opposite. There's a very high bar for retaliation complaints and it's getting higher all the time [1]. These days you basically need a confession from your employer to establish that the retaliation was the "determinative factor."

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/business/supreme-court-ra...


Nobody needs to give out malicious references when everyone just does lunch with everyone else.

Silicon Valley is a small place.


Blacklisting is typically done covertly though.


you will be blacklisted in many circles

One revelation of the Damore affair was that Google managers a) participate in blacklisting and b) are utterly brazen about it


You left off a pretty important qualifier. If you're willing to entertain the fact that tech jobs exist outside of Silicon Valley, finding another equivalent job after winning a discrimination lawsuit against a former employer is no problem.


[flagged]


Are they?

They look overqualified and not a good fit with the team culture.


Nit pick: the ADA is a law, not an agency. The DoJ is the agency that will prosecute violations of the act.


Thanks for chiming in, as is my way after diving into a "touchy" subject I'm honestly half regretting this thread given the negative reception, and from your greying I see you received the same; but what is HN for if we don't discuss important things. :) It's ironic since your situation is _exactly_ what I worry about, both my wife and I have some phenomenal stories of the side-channels that can be used to ensure "lack of performance" during or prior to a maternity leave.

Hell, it even bridges genders, I've seen male friends on extended sick leave got the shaft via PiPs, where the time-correlation was uncanny to say the least, and the cost to pursue it seemed disadvantageous to them at the time.

My suspicion is that there's a perception that because we don't back the "Laws Laws Laws" aspect of it 100%, some people read us as "opposed", when in reality I'm arguing that _laws are not sufficient_ to achieve positive outcomes. Unfortunately, many people are... very opposed to engaging in this discussion, so the best I can do is guess.

EDIT: (And, lest I spam the thread more, thanks@meti for mentioning EEOC, I honestly didn't know that existed prior, and I'll be sending it to one friend right now)


You are right that laws aren't enough. It's the same situation with a school bully. You can complain to the teacher about it and they will make them stop. Often the bully will then recruit other kids to bully you because you are a "snitch" or teachers pet. Similar to the whole blacklisting issue. That person stopped my illegal behavior so I'll show them etc.

What we have to fix is the idea that because someone undertook an enforcement action that they are a risk. If your company treats it's people fairly, you generally have nothing to worry about. If when presented with blacklist info people reported it (especially when it is illegal) the culture around this would improve.


What I don't get is... forget the "illegal" part, how is that not dumb? 3 months after your first child is born is when you start to accommodate with your new life. They will spend another 6 months-1y trying to find a reasonable replacement, and might very well end up with a poorer employee, and for sure one that needs to ramp up for a few months. By that time, she will likely be fully productive again.

What baffles me the most is that my (US) employer practices rampant positive discrimination when hiring women (I don't mind, btw). And I find it hard to believe they're unique in this. How does a company go from "we ned more gender diversity" to "let's fire the young mothers!"?

WRT "how to fix this".... it's one of the few things that my country has done fairly well, but it'd be unthinkable in the US: you can legally take up to 2 years of maternity leave (or paternity leave, but not both; I think social security covers most of the costs for the company). It's at a fraction of your salary, and there are incentives to come back to work sooner, but you can also stay the full 2y. If you come back sooner, the company is often just grateful, they don't question "how will you handle it" because well... you could've stayed home; you probably figured it out how to handle a small child. And after 2y, nobody really doubts that you can handle work & parenting. Firing you while pregnant is rampantly illegal, I've never heard anybody have this problem - but, indeed, there is sometimes/in some companies a reluctance to hire young childless women. Still, overall I think the rule is pretty good.


> What I don't get is... forget the "illegal" part, how is that not dumb?

It's a kind of bourgeoisie management ideology. The bosses insist that you, your time, and all of your attention belongs to them (we only want 110% players, etc).

When a child enters the picture, they have concrete evidence that the thing they believe is not true, and that's a subconscious threat. They need to either admit that their shitty paper distribution company is not actually the be-all-and-end-all of existence, or just eliminate the threat.

Which is to say that this behavior _is_ dumb, but it does serve a function in preserving the ego of management.


> And my response is "Of course it's not, but if you've got a 3 month old newborn at home, have just been laid off, and are trying to conserve cash so you don't go bankrupt before getting another job (which, BTW, you will never get if you sue your former employer), are you really going to sue them? Where will you find the money? Where will you find the lawyer? Where will you find the time?"

That is one thing unions are good for.


Weirdly enough "it's illegal" does in fact work just fine in a lot of countries. The US legal system being a borderline p2w scam is probably part of the problem, likewise that American companies rarely feel like they have a shared social responsibility and proudly adopt a "I gotta get mine fuck you" attitude.


> Where will you find the time?

If she doesn't have the time to work on a lawsuit, why would she have had the time to work at her job?


Because if she’s finding the money for a lawsuit she’s busy working.


One interpretation of existencebox is that he has already assumed the moral position that shielding pregnancies is wholesome for society, but he's asking the policy question of where the money should come from, or if government should get involved in evening out the burden.

On a tangential matter, I think many people would agree that society should consider financial help for children in poverty. But who should pay? The potentially poorer neighborhoods where they reside? The businesses in the area? Or the national government?


>but he's asking the policy question of where the money should come from, or if government should get involved in evening out the burden.

From the businesses. Paid paternal leave is already a legal mandate in just about every country. The US is very lacking in this regard.


Actually; that (From the business) is the part I don't agree with. (You're right that the US is comparatively lacking, however)

As Rayiner accurately points out, children are clearly necessary from a societal point of view. Thus, it seems "most fair" for the whole society to bear that, and for it to not be unevenly distributed such that it generates perverse incentives for business owners.


Might this unfairly subsidise companies paying higher salaries? So Google and their employees would get more money from the government to support their pregnant employees than Joes Pizza Company? Why?

Companies that pay higher salaries by their choice incur higher payroll costs. That’s just how that works. Trying to engineer the system to even that out somehow is just introducing bureaucracy and costs into the system. The only case I do have concerns about is small employers who by chance might get hit with the costs of a large proportion of their staff taking maternity/paternity leave at the same time. That could be crippling and possibly there should be some special programme to help those companies out.


> Might this unfairly subsidise companies paying higher salaries?

If designed properly it would not. High-income employees would get more pay out of the program, but they would also have to pay more into the program. It would be a wash, just like employment insurance or social security.


Large businesses do not pay their fair share to society and therefore should incur the cost of helping pay for the people that maintain and build their business.


I also agree that larger businesses should shoulder higher burden than smaller ones, but if we make any business pay in a headcount sensitive way, then we are creating disincentives which may be explored in opaque ways.

I also think that some industries, such as education, have substantially more women than men and thus will shoulder disproportionate burden. I also think that richer areas will shoulder the burden more easily.

I think these things point to a collective model of burden. I think bigger companies should shoulder uneven burden, but I'm not sure if different industries or areas should shoulder substantially different burden.


I suspect that well meaning attempts to rig the system that way would just backfire. Big companies have the resources, lawyers and incentives to manipulate and exploit regulations like that to their advantage. I think the simplest approach, which is just regulating against discrimination, may not be perfect but trying to come up with a perfect system will just impose so much regulation and costs and exploitable loopholes that it wouldn’t end up any better and could well be both worse and more expensive.

Note I’m not taking a blanket all regulation is bad stance. I support regulation to protect pregnant employees and family life. I am recruiting right now for a contractor to cover for a pregnant employee in my team (in the UK). I just think in general the simplest approach is usually the beast, or anyway the least worst.


I think we agree that companies shouldn't be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex, reproductive status, or family plans. However, I would contend that a simple blanket rule doesn't address the incentives to discriminate.

I would also argue that burden to compensate companies for employees taking time off for personal or family matters (regardless of sex, reproductive plan or status) should be shouldered at the state or national level, and not at local level where there may be higher disparity in both burden and capacity. If both men and women are allotted mandated time to attend to family, and both men and women warrant access to funding for their employers, then companies would lose incentives to discriminate because presumably everyone would want their time off.

If the federal government compensated businesses, then startups and small businesses wouldn't be exempt from protection, nor unequally stressed relative to bigger businesses. As another commentator pointed out, the UK has a similar model.


I don't think companies like Google discriminate because of funding. They discriminate because they want their engineers doing tons of overtime and focusing on their assigned projects at the expense of personal time and private lives. No amount of funding is going to change that culture.


I also agree that larger businesses should shoulder higher burden than smaller ones, but if we make any business pay in a headcount sensitive way, then we are creating disincentives which may be explored in opaque ways.

Your third paragraph you say that this points to collective burden, so you actually don't agree that larger businesses should shoulder higher burden. You are more worried about the actions of the company then the moral implications to actual human beings, so you are highly immoral, noted.

I also think that some industries, such as education, have substantially more women than men and thus will shoulder disproportionate burden. I also think that richer areas will shoulder the burden more easily.

Your third paragraph you say that this points to a collective burden, yet in this one you say richer areas will shoulder the burden more easily. Aside from this being a statement as vacuous as "the sky is blue", you are also completely missing the fact that higher education is already highly subsidized by alumni, government and corporations. If you are talking about k-12, yeah they are funded by local property taxes already, and are completely irrelevant to this conversation, as this conversation is about corporations.

I think these things point to a collective model of burden.

It's hard to tell what you actually think.


>From the businesses. Paid paternal leave is already a legal mandate in just about every country. The US is very lacking in this regard.

Yes, and in those other countries, the vast portion of the cost (just like the cost of health insurance) is borne by the government, not the business.

For example, in the UK, 92% of the mandated parental leave costs are paid by the government (technically it's a refund but you can get an advance on it). Employers can (and often do) offer more if they wish.

source: https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay-employer-gu...


First, as threatofrain correctly surmised, I'm not disagreeing for a moment that it's a necessity. I'm questioning if we're going about it with the right tools. Nostrademons pointed out very aptly how the current approach is falling short.

Your own example seems like a great point to make of the exact sort of perverse incentives one can create though. Tons of discussions lately about the gig economy and lack of worker protections. I'm not convinced this isn't at least in part related to the cost of full time workers vs. contractors.

As I said in my response to Rayiner, saying "We disallow this legally" simply isn't sufficient to prevent behavior, to my eyes. As a society, it's illegal to pursue corporate fraud, yet a board of political luminaries will back it, to be topical about things. It's illegal to discriminate vs. age, yet those threads pervade HN.

Would I like to live in a world where we didn't need to play incentive games/work around unconcious bias, absolutely, but that's simply not my (pessimistic) view of things.


> We address that situation by categorically prohibiting discrimintion.

I think a part of existencebox's point is that this prohibition doesn't entirely work, because companies discriminate anyway, and craft the playing field so that they either don't get caught, or that the cost or repercussions of fighting back end up being too high for an individual to bear.

Perhaps if we were more willing to look at the actual negative effects (on job performance) caused by pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing, we could actually create incentives to "pay for" those negative effects and stamp out discrimination.

But no, instead we just "prohibit discrimination", without trying to find remedies for the reasons why companies want to discriminate in the first place. It helps, sure. But it falls far short of actually fixing the problem.


This is a very important part of the problem in my view.

Pregnancy and child rearing has a real cost for most businesses, and it is not surprising that discrimination occurs as a result. Trying to ignore those issues and simply make discrimination illegal will never be particularly effective because the underlying issues have not been addressed.

I think we would be better off acknowledging that those issues exist, but fostering a culture where making sacrifices to support families is considered absolutely worthwhile since it is such a fundamentally important part of our society.

There should still be laws against discrimination, but we should not expect the existence of those laws to police our behaviour. A person's behaviour is primarily controlled by what they believe is right, not what they believe is legal


But there's still a new generation of consumers and workers if only one company discriminates and everyone else plays fair.

Every company just thinks it gets to be that one company. It's a classic tragedy of the commons scenario.


From general interest POV, FB stock price is peanuts compared to problems arising from to many people and overconsumption.


Maybe that's a problem in developing countries, but population increase is very slow in the US. https://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/us/usa-population-grow...


It does not make sense to quantize this based on national borders. We're all in the same atmosphere and biosphere.

And of course, any growth is bad in the current situation since the current level is so unsustainable - population should decrease, not increase.


> And of course, any growth is bad in the current situation since the current level is so unsustainable

Which resources are currently constrained? You'll find most of the growth is occuring in "low-maintanance" developing economies that don't consume as much (energy, food, goods, or any random metric per capita) as developed economies.

My counter-thesis: it's not the growth that's unsustainable, but the wasteful and environmentally unfriendly throw-away consumerist lifestyles.


Or, it should stabilize, and we should focus $$$ on sustainability rather than endless economic growth. Incidentally, the entirety of the world population could fit comfortably in the US alone, including the requisite farmland. Here's an interesting visualization of this:

https://www.zdnet.com/article/could-7-billion-people-live-in...


Businesses aren't spared the benefits generated by their employees.

Employees are a benefit, not a cost. The fact employees have requirements of their own is something that happens in organisations run by humans for humans.

If you think employees are a cost, you're doing business wrong - and doing humanity wrong too.

This really comes down to a political issue - who is business for? In capitalist economies, business exists primarily to make money for shareholders and management.

The belief that this can excuse all kinds of incredibly inhumane behaviours is far more of a problem than the fact that women get pregnant and need time off.

Now - you can argue there is huge inconvenience in not having someone turn up to work for a while. From one point of view, it's certainly not ideal.

But a mature business should be able to deal with all kinds of challenges, including human issues, technical issues, political issues, and financial issues.

Being amazed and blindsided by a pregnancy, or even multiple pregnancies, suggests poor planning and a brittle culture. It's not evidence of freebooting capitalism, so much as of not being very good at management.


I agree. You can't have it all - a man with one butt can't dance at two weddings. You have to make a choice between aggressively getting ahead in your career and family.

I think more couples should think about the effect that thier (not just her) career will have on thier family and choose to make the necessary lifestyle choices accordingly.

I married my wife in our mid thirties and she had two kids she was raising by herself - in a good neighborhood (meaning they weren't struggling). We've made plenty of career limiting choices to put our marriage and our family first. She took a pay cut to work a job with fewer hours and less pay and I gave up all of my side hustles and refuse to work a job that requires extended frequent travel, long hours, or a long commute.

I don't expect a business to accomadate my family choices or to reward me as highly as someone who is willing to put in 70 hours a week. On the other hand, a business shouldn't expect me to sacrifice more than 40-45 hours a week with my family for their benefit. I'd much rather lose my job than lose my wife.


So insurance actually is the vehicle that most companies utilize to protect against shortish-term disability (which does cover pregnancy). Second, tax credits exist for FMLA leave, which stack on top of normal favorable wage tax treatment. The financial burden is being collectivized already.

If you’re talking about the general time treatment that parents have vs non-parents, then I don’t know what to tell you. 40 hours a week is pretty attainable especially with flexibility around work day, which a progressive workspace like google should be able to support. If the problem is that google is set up to expect people to work themselves to death, that’s not smart and they should focus on that problem instead.


Now that you mention it, a government stipend in some form seems like the only good solution. Without it, we're automatically punishing good nondiscriminatory businesses and rewarding discriminatory businesses who do get away with it.

It's spreading out the costs to everyone instead of focusing it on the one company that suddenly happens to have 10% or 30% of its workforce suddenly gone.

It seems much fairer to all parties involved.


Everyone has to juggle various demands on their time. You could just as easily make the question more generic, and ask everyone "do you have a good track record or gameplan for keeping up with personal obligations and balancing them with your professional obligations as an employee?" Of course my answer to that question would be 'yes'.


This is an awful suggestion. Next you're going to be suggesting employers ask where on the Andre Walker Hair Typing System potential recruits fall so they don't have to ask whether or not they are black.


I have no idea what the "Andre Walker Hair Typing System" is or what it has to do with being black, but if it has anything to do with hair, it would seem completely irrelevant to how good of an employee one is (As is ones skin color). Further, the question I propose is a simple yes or no question, with the option to elaborate. And if you couldn't tell by my last sentence, I don't actually expect the response to be particularly meaningful in most cases.


> That's just not the pragmatic reality of employment in the US at this time

Correct, look at the German approach.

I'm not sure if the government subsidizes the companies for the lack of production, but the state mandates 1 year paid leave, and up to 3 and ability to get the same job back.

Now I know that is totally impractical for the tech sector, taken verbatim.

The US can learn from it anyway.


It's stories like these that makes me thank God my wife (and mother to a 1.5 year old) doesn't work in tech. In her field of pharma there isn't a stigma associated with women of child-bearing age and when they announce they're pregnant.

What a field we're in when ranked output is all that matters at the cost of being human with human needs. I needed a kid as much as my wife. I guess I shouldn't expect any different by a field dominated by a bunch of male douchey autists.


> We agree, societally, that we shouldn't discriminate against parents. However, we don't live in a world where a business is spared the cost incurred by that.

The policy solution is:

- A per-child negative income tax sufficient to cover the risk/impact of employer discrimination.

- Give mothers and fathers equal leave.

- Limit the compulsory work week to 50 hours for salaried (or overtime hourly) employees.

- Penalties for violating the above sufficient to convince lawyers to take the case on a speculative basis if the client has a legitimate case.

That balances out the differences between genders and parents/non-parents sufficiently that anyone with sense wouldn't take the risk.


Other solutions, since we aren't going to see policy solutions in the US anytime soon, might include: - insurance to help companies pay for parental leave - state level policies (eg: California, but it only has 6 weeks which is hilariously short) - stronger enforcement of current laws


True, I agree under an ideal framework including a form of insurance for parental leave could also work in place of the negative income tax.


> A per-child negative income tax sufficient to cover the risk/impact of employer discrimination.

Wouldn't this just lead to employers discriminating, on the grounds that "hey, you already got your tax benefit to make up for it"?


Not if the penalties harsh enough that a decent lawyer will take an average case on spec.

You need to remember the effectiveness of a law is penalty * odds of getting caught. You just need to make discrimination unattractive financially and provide some incentive to the parents to cover the risk.


You seem to assume being a parent (as an employee) is all downside and no upside (for the company). Let me suggest this unstated assumption is not accurate. You learn a lot when you have a family that you aren't likely to learn any other way.

My ex was a really smart guy, but not much of a people person. He once told me that most of what he knew about being a good manager he learned from being married to me. Otherwise, he would be good at the technical parts of his job, but he wouldn't be any good at dealing with people.

Part of what I knew about dealing with people came from being a full time parent. I'm also much more of a people person than he was, but potential gets developed by practice and real world experience. It doesn't happen in a vacuum.


You look at workplace performance directly, that's how. Employers fundamentally aren't entitled to the residual value of workplace performance above and beyond the standards they demand for the renumeration they provide.

Possibly you can create an option that allows employees to self-discriminate. Say, "drop down to 30 hrs/wk with some work-from-home flexibility" for a significant drop in pay. You'll get roughly the same level of performance in many creative arts like programming, but since it's the employee's choice to take the company isn't responsible for "discriminating".


The corporate tax rate has been reduced to something like 20%. Most companies in the US pay much less than that. The state is already subsidizing a lot for big corporations.

Companies are nothing but made up of people. The irony is at one time or another these same people would have wanted the exact same benefits for themselves but they don’t like extending those same benefits to others.

If they can’t act in the larger national interest on a few of these occasions then they won’t have a population to sell to.


If they can’t act in the larger national interest on a few of these occasions then they won’t have a population to sell to.

Apple sells globally, should Apple also pay for the welfare of the countries where it sells its product?

The corporate tax rate has been reduced to something like 20%. Most companies in the US pay much less than that. The state is already subsidizing a lot for big corporations.

Some part of which flows to investors who purchase securities. Capital gains and dividends are taxed.

Companies can't earn record profits without government running deficit (by healthcare/infra expenditure) and without people running out of savings (by spending on the goods and services being produced)

Part of the value produced will be taxed in the US while the individuals and governments all over the world run out of saving and run into deficits respectively. All that flows to the US. Stopping this is much worse for the US.


> Apple sells globally, should Apple also pay for the welfare of the countries where it sells its product?

Yes. And they do in countries which charge VAT. They should arguably be taxed on the profits they make in the territories they sell in, but that is much harder to do in practice without international cooperation.

> Some part of which flows to investors who purchase securities. Capital gains and dividends are taxed.

Capital gains are only taxed when they are realized. E.g. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway hasn't paid a dime in taxes on the 15.4 billion dollar capital gains on its 16.7 billion dollar stake in Coca Cola (a position he initiated in 1987). Since Buffett has indicated he isn't planning on selling Coca Cola ever, those capital gains won't ever be taxed.

> Companies can't earn record profits without government running deficit (by healthcare/infra expenditure) and without people running out of savings (by spending on the goods and services being produced)

Of course they can: by becoming more efficient or by growing GDP.

> Part of the value produced will be taxed in the US while the individuals and governments all over the world run out of saving and run into deficits respectively. All that flows to the US. Stopping this is much worse for the US.

Nonsense. If you had looked at the OECD government deficit data [1], you would have known that the US is running one of the biggest deficits in terms of % of GDP (4.94% in 2016 vs 1.546% for the EU as a whole, or a surplus of 1% for Germany). Similarly, personal savings are 2.8% in the US [2] vs 10% in the EU [3] or 50% in Japan [4].

Of course, this has little to do with the balance of trade, as you seem to be thinking. The US runs a trade deficit: it imports more than it exports. This is offset by capital inflows from abroad, meaning that a bigger and bigger share of the ownership of productive assets are being owned by foreigners. Returns on those assets will accrue to foreign investors.

[1] https://data.oecd.org/gga/general-government-deficit.htm

[2] https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/indicators

[3] https://tradingeconomics.com/european-union/indicators

[4] https://tradingeconomics.com/japan/indicators


Yes. And they do in countries which charge VAT. They should arguably be taxed on the profits they make in the territories they sell in, but that is much harder to do in practice without international cooperation.

GP mentioned the Corporate Tax.

VAT is an indirect tax. It's not a tax on profit but consumption, often paid by individuals.

Supplies used as input by companies are vat exempt.

Capital gains are only taxed when they are realized. E.g. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway hasn't paid a dime in taxes on the 15.4 billion dollar capital gains on its 16.7 billion dollar stake in Coca Cola (a position he initiated in 1987). Since Buffett has indicated he isn't planning on selling Coca Cola ever, those capital gains won't ever be taxed.

I also mentioned taxes on dividends.

Buffet is not the only one operating in market.

Of course they can: by becoming more efficient or by growing GDP.

And how can they grow GDP or become more efficient without investment? Where does that money come from if not from the individuals (buying product/service) and government (spending on infra/healthcare)

Nonsense. If you had looked at the OECD government deficit data [1], you would have known that the US is running one of the biggest deficits in terms of % of GDP (4.94% in 2016 vs 1.546% for the EU as a whole, or a surplus of 1% for Germany). Similarly, personal savings are 2.8% in the US [2] vs 10% in the EU [3] or 50% in Japan [4]

Not sure what you are trying to prove by this random data.

US is the largest Foreign Direct receipent.

Yes, Europe the largest buyer of the US securities.

As US become more attractive to the foreign investors. The trade deficit will increase and will be financed by the foreign investors. Where is the problem?


> What's a state of affairs we can reach such that people don't become preemptively discriminatory for lack of being able to examine factors that would impact workplace performance?

Make the penalties for such discrimination large enough that, even when factoring in the uncertainty that they will be applied in each case, they outweigh any conceivable benefit.


The economy exists to serve the people not the other way around. The purpose of life is to preserve and develop life. If the economy is making it hard to live and reproduce the economy is maladaptive and will fail.


The problem is that the people refers to a group as a collective. The economy deals with individuals that make up a group. Individuals always triumph in the long run, which means that if you set rules where you discriminate against individuals that want to be different for the benefit of the group then you end up with a system that will eventually collapse.


Reminds me of a time when G.K. Chesterton saw a banner that asked, "Should store clerks be allowed to marry?" To which he retorted, "Should store clerks be allowed to be store clerks?" We do tend to forget the proper order of things at times.


The world must be peopled!


Why?


I am very much the wrong person for you to recruit in an attempt to apply the axiomatic method to discrimination laws. Discriminating against pregnant women is wrong because it's wrong, full stop.


Your statement of "recruit" is exactly the sort of misconstruction I was hoping to avoid.

threatofrain got it right. This is a problem we need to address, but the solutions I've seen thus far don't take unfortunate pathologies of human psychology into account, and when we don't do that, we get very surprised at the lack of results down the line. You're more than willing to try to live in a world where you say "Because we said X this is what's going to happen" but I find that to be far less proactive than trying to ask what actual responses are, as distasteful as they might be, and ways to address them.

My concern is that Rayiner's response, "we prohibit it because we made it a law" is still ignoring the key point. _it's too goddamn easy_ to discriminate and paint it as something else, too many reasons I could turn down ANY applicant, for me to just brush it off as "a law is sufficient." I believe that if this is a problem we _really_ want to fix, it's going to involve delving into some unpleasant trains of thought that aren't really "acceptable conversation" right now. I just worry that by ignoring it, the problem goes unaddressed, and we potentially foment resistance against it.

It feels naive to me to think that just because a law is "full stop necessary" in our moral frame of reference, to think that's sufficient to implement it effectively such that it generates the outcome you want in the long run.


I'm super confused at what you recommend needs changing. The law against pregnancy discrimination exists, but because it's easy to circumvent you want something stricter? Or you want the gov't to subsidize it?


I believe what GP is saying is that;

1. Having a child incurs a cost to employers.

2. Regardless of legality, a business will try to minimize this cost.

3. Since it's illegal during an interview to even touch upon the subject of having kids and what a candidate's strategy may be to remain a productive employee while raising a child, employers may be even more discriminatory towards _everyone_ of a child-bearing age, in order to avoid discriminating against recent or soon-to-be parents.

So, how can we alter the incentive structure for employers such that they're not tempted to discriminate. Should we shift the cost burden of child rearing to the govt? Or should we allow an employer to ask you about your plans for having children and how it will affect your employment


If I understand correctly, although the GP may have been suggesting government subsidy as a possible solution, the point wasn't that this is somehow "best" from broad or moral reasons.

Rather, it addresses the specific issue of there being an economic incentive to discriminate, intrinsic to all businesses.

Addressing that issue is compatible with concurrent solutions that outlaw the discrimination on moral grounds, or do so more strictly, or provide more aggressive enforcement.


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> Obviously companies have all the power, and we need to fight a guerrilla style war against corporate hegemony, and we obviously have to take strategic consideration of these facts.

virtually no one who posts on this website will be better off after the revolution. why dedicate your life to screwing yourself?


>Obviously companies have all the power

Major corporations may have a lot. The random corner shop with two employees certainly doesn't.


So the only victims of said guerilla style warfare will be the small shops. BiCo will get away with it, and get emboldened at their success. Might not pushing for a policy change be a better altrnative?


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I can't say anything in response but that I believe you're willfully misreading my posts as to construe me to be fighting against your end.

I'm disappointed that we're not able to engage in better faith.


Murder is wrong yet we don't spend infinity $ on trying to prevent it. There's a point where we go "we could spend more to prevent more murders but it's not worth it". Everything is ultimately subject to the constraints imposed by reality and therefore the economic costs and benefits related to certain behaviors. Therefore, designing policy based on willfully blind moralism is a terrible approach.

If you're not even willing to consider the idea of regulations to deal with the matter pragmatically (such as the govt stipend suggested by the person you were replying to), then the situation is just going to continue unchanged.


> we could spend more to prevent more murders but it's not worth it

that's a contradiction in terms. What's "it"? What could you spend and why is it worth less than it's supposed to? I'd argue that it fails because most direct attempts to stop murder involve more murder. Which is to say, no, we could not, or we would've done it, but of course the reasons are very difficult. An easy solution is to restrict the definitions, which is necessary, because death is awfully complicated for the mind to process, but therefore also subject to abuse.

And, individually we have less interest in our neighbor procreating. But in a benevolent reading, tptacek's quoted question could be reduced to "how will you be able to care of young children, given that we require a high degree of commitment to the company?"


I don’t think the person you are arguing with is disagreeing that discrimination against pregnant women (or mothers) is wrong. I got the sense they are trying to figure out how we combat it.

Yes, we can make it illegal, and enforce strictly, and yes we should do that. However, as long as their is a cost to companies when women take maternity leave, you are going to have to keep fighting the battle because companies will find new and creative ways to discriminate to save money.

What we need to do, in addition to enforcing anti-discrimination laws, is to have maternity and paternity leave mandated by law, and paid for with taxpayer dollars. The cost of having and raising the next generation should be shared.

We can all agree that the discrimination is wrong, full stop, but we need to be pragmatic and realistic in how we combat it.


And there's... "hey Joe's got young kids and needs to be 9-5 now, you're single so can't you pick up the slack?" Or "you're not married, can't you be on the pager during Xmas/Turkey-day/weekend". They are two abusive sides of the same coin.


The abuse is the compulsory, unpaid pager, and the expectation that you’re working 7a-9p. “Joe” with the young kids pushes back because he has to. You’re the sucker saying yes.

The fix for this is easy. You pay for on-call, and have a understood system for assigning it. My brother in law is a fireman... he misses many holidays, but can plan around it because there is such a system.


I think you're agreeing with me but, actually it's not clear that Joe pushed back or that "I'm a sucker"... it's that boss Fred has kids too and gives some slack to people like himself.

And the reason your brother-in-law has such a system with paid overtime is a union... which is unlikely to affect IT until AIs organize and demand work-life balance.


> “Joe” with the young kids pushes back because he has to.

Having children is just a choice of a hobby that takes a lot of time, but in our current culture it's reprehensible for me to say I can't fill in his hours because I have my own hobbies that I want to do instead.


Children are sort of a social necessity, hence carrying more gravitas than conventional hobbies. Obviously "I can't work because I'm cartooning" is gonna be met with more skepticism than "I'm taking care of a sick kid"


It's amazing to me that a single company can be simultaneously fending off the recently-sealed Damore suit and still be discriminating against women. It's as if it's lip service on both sides, while all actions are just made in the company's interest (rolling over employee's interests whenever they contradict it, discrimination or not).


I hate to be rude but why are you surprised? Companies are not a single person and that goes extra for big companies. It’s possible for all of the above to be true.

Don’t forget local managers and do things against company policy which causes weird stories like the above.


This predates Damore by several years.


Can guarantee you that all large (tech) companies have mandatory interview training whose main goal is to avoid these issues... unfortunately when you have a company this large, there's always going to be that-one-guy that will still act like a jerk.

Questions about race, age, religion, pregnancy, civil status, disability are all off-limit. This interviewer was out of line, and should be reported to the recruiter.


I'm the father of a young child. No company would ever ask me this question. But maybe they should.

Because I'm just as distracted from my work/career by my toddler as any mother would be. And if they decided not to hire me on account of that I certainly would not blame them.


Isn't that illegal?


I imagine that Google, famous for their participation in an illegal wage fixing cartel and with its literal army of high-paid attorneys, isn’t too afraid of the legal consequences of discriminating against one woman. Well, so long as the NYTimes doesn’t write about it at least.


Google isn't a person and high-paid attorneys aren't antibodies. It's much more likely that people doing the interviews don't have a clue how to do it (likely because their expertise is software engineering, not recruiting)

The sooner we stop blaming faceless corporations and start acknowledging that each person involved in recruiting (including you and me) needs to take training and ethics more seriously, the better.


When people say corporation they clearly mean the board, the C level execs and regulations need to be put in place that promotes a culture of morality for the people that comprise and make these businesses function. You're blaming the individual for a cultural context that has been set by poor and morally bankrupt leadership.


There's obviously room for C-level execs to improve just as well as there is room for the engineers conducting interviews. It's not an either-or situation.

Perhaps ironically, I currently work at Uber (you know, the media darling). Here, I (and many others) feel strongly that the responsibility of fixing things is on everyone at every level, rather than something that comes exclusively from above.

Somehow after people lost faith in the old leadership, and gained faith in the new leadership, they built up the awareness and courage to speak up.

There has been some stuff coming from above (mandatory training about harassment, for example), but for the most part, initiatives to fix recruiting (and other aspects that have been in limbo) are self-organized by the engineers via interest groups, with awareness efforts in guild meetings, etc, and then those efforts bubble up the org chart sort of as an FYI. We tie these into what we call citizenship goals, which essentially work as an organizationally-blessed reason to do good.

Obviously I don't wish for other companies to go through the mud like Uber did, but it would great if the ethically-minded employees at other companies could find some other catalyst to take matters into their own hands. Even here, there's still a lot to do, and it has to be an ongoing effort, but I'm hopeful.


As a previous hiring manager, it's easy to getting stuck in the mindset that when you are doing shitty things for that faceless Corp that it isn't you doing that shitty thing, it's you doing what the Corp wants. It's hard to have the presence of mind to realize you are doing something for a entity that rarely is moral, but many times is amoral or even immoral


> Google isn't a person and high-paid attorneys aren't antibodies.

Obviously you don't live in the USA.


I doubt the lawyers would OK such a thing, even if they weren't afraid of the legal consequences. Interviewers are just employees on the loop with minimal training, and as such you're likely to run into a non-trivial portion that do dumb things in the interviews.


Yes. But when you have Google money do you care?


It's a fair question. Though it needs to be asked regardless of candidate's gender.


Wait... you guys had “pre-existing” kids and they asked that? What the actual f?

How did your wife respond? :)


Not that it doesn't happen, but even asking that question is legally actionable.


According to this web page (https://www.californiaemployeerightslawyer.com/family-respon...), using that information as part of the decision-making process would be against the law if it happened in California.


I don't think there's much controversy about that.


I'm curious to know whether she reported it, either to the company or to the relevant branch of law enforcement, or whether she considered reporting it.


That is insane that they asked this during an interview. Wow. Either HR has no sway over things or they are complicit.


How did they found out? Did they ask?


They asked about the resume gap from when she had our kids.


Well, that's like... a whole different situation. Why wouldn't you mention that ?


Unfortunately lying is the correct response here.


Oh, that's different, IIUC, if an employer asks about a history gap, and the candidate volunteers the information "I had kids," they can take that into account.

The system's broken.


None of that matters. An employer is free to ask any questions they want.

What they aren't free to do is make discriminatory hiring decisions based on membership in protected classes.

Avoiding asking certain types of personal questions is one way to avoid the appearance of discriminatory hiring practices.

>they can take that into account.

They can't take that into account just because you bring it up. Whether or not you bring it up or they ask doesn't matter. Some jurisdictions have laws explicitly forbiding discrimination against parents, and the federal prohibition on sex discrimination means that discrimination against caregivers is generally prohibited (since women are more likely to be caregivers, discrimination against them is defacto discriminatory towards women)


What's funny about big corporations is they will always always always ask employees to pitch in, help out, make sacrifices, etc. for the betterment of the corporation: to get work done, to survive lean times, etc. And yet when the shoe is on the other foot they are always the most incredibly reluctant to make any sacrifice, even small ones, to help their employees. And this isn't just a matter of finances, financially it makes sense to retain good employees at almost any cost, because it costs a ton of money to hire and train new employees (sometimes upwards of a year's worth of salary for the position in equivalent costs), and that's aside from the ancillary benefits of retaining employees longer (better work environment, higher skill level workers, more able to reliably execute on challenging projects, etc.) So much of it just comes down to power dynamics.


You see this at small companies and start ups as well. I've seen it first hand myself.


What level was your wife? I hypothesize that the higher your level the more insulated you are from being mistreated. I've seen quite a few L5+ (Senior) go on maternity leave and come back seemingly without issue, but then again I don't know for sure.


My manager at said company once said to me that my planned paternity leave "is untimely" with a straight face.


What's wrong with them saying that?


Because the timeliness of paternity/maternity leave is determined by the childbirth's date, not by anything else.


That's obvious to anyone who knows how humans replicate.

The sentiment of the comment was that the timing was unfortunate because the kid was born in the same period that had presumably something else going on on the work side. Not that the child was born. So either the OP had some prior "history" with his manager, which changed the literal meaning of the comment, or he is reading too much into it.


What is the childbirth's date roughly determined by? There's an event that must occur before childbirth is even possible.


Are you legit suggesting that people should do their family planning around their employer's convenience?


Is that how you read my comment? Odd, because that's not what I wrote at all. The comment I replied to suggested that the timing of a child's birth was completely random and unpredictable. I suggested that's not the case. I don't know how you got from what I wrote to what you read, that's quite a mental leap!


so you wrote it to just state the obvious and in no way to imply that i should've planned conception around my future promotion attempt? got it.


12 months paid and not having to show up for work?

> ... wasn't going back to work anyway ...

Adding in severance pay on top of that, sounds like a sweet deal!


Who knows, may have received more in a lawsuit.


Interesting. I'm genuinely surprised that a company like Google with both massive financial resources and who actively court a progressive public image would be so shortsighted as to start systematically discriminating against pregnant women.


Google isn't that shortsighted. The behavior described in that comment is both disgusting and horribly against policy. (I work there part-time; I get most of the "don't be stupid in this way" training.)

But I'm not surprised that in a company of > 70k people, there are some who either shouldn't be involved in hiring, or desperately need more clue. The real question is if on a per-capita basis, Google's managing to make it better over time.


Same thing happened to my wife at Facebook. They waited a few weeks and then tried to dredge up anything they thought would stick before relenting.


> We had twins so she wasn't going back to work anyway

But the company would have still had to keep the position open anyways. Here we see the root causes of pregnancy discrimination.


I'm not doubting what happened in your wife's situation, but it strikes me as strange that this would happen at a company where both men and women are given longer parental / bonding leave than is required by US law (and, in China, more than is required by Chinese law). The obvious reason why the company would offer this, is because it helps with employee recruitment, retention and productivity over the long term.

And, given how hard it is for large companies in the bay area to hire enough people who fit their needs, it seems irrational to let someone go for only this reason.


That helps the company in general, but on individual teams the incentives are different and the manager may have decided it was worth it for him to try and kill this behavior or just get the employee gone now so that he could get in queue for getting a replacement ASAP.


> the fact that they tried left us with a bad taste.

This is really one of the fundamental reasons that not taking care of mothers & fathers (and in fact: going after them) is just such a boneheaded move. It’s a statement of culture. Companies are full of mothers and fathers, and how you treat expectant mothers is a statement on your corporate values. If you need to put it into financial terms — which you shouldn’t — you will lose more value with a weaker talent pool and higher recruiting costs treating people poorly, than you will by doing the right thing.


You should name the company, assuming there are no legal barriers to doing so. How can we possibly fight back against abuse if we default to anonymizing the perpetrators out of fear?


"EDIT: Let's call the company by name indeed."

I'm glad you decided to do this. The practice is not going to change if people don't call it out when it happens.


> After returning she got the choice to do the PIP or take severance and leave.

How does this also not result in expensive lawsuit.


Possibly. We were/are lucky in that we both have good job prospects and plenty of opportunities to pursue, at the time we just wanted to enjoy our family time and the last thing we wanted is to engage in a legal battle. I'm sure we could've gotten more out of it had we wanted it (at least financially), not sure if same can be said for the time and energy put in though.


Having been involved in a lawsuit, and despite winning it, they sap the life out of you.


I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand you were totally in the right and should have sued if they persisted. At the same time I have a hard time being emotionally upset at a company/manager behaving rationally. The fact that your wife didn't go back to work will subconsciously reinforce the idea to not hire birthing age women. This is also a huge problem in the UK if anecdotes from my friends are any indication, women of birthing age have a very hard time finding work because employers don't want to be saddled with paying massive leave and then severance.


A good argument for parental leave not being tied to employer, and instead being tied paid by the state.

I've heard of moms before who would rather tell the truth that they're not coming back after leave, but there's little upside and a lot of risk.


I'm not sure the paid leave and severance is really the primary issue. Sure, money is money, but it's very expensive to find a good employee. When someone goes on leave like that you can't fill the position. Since they can't fill your position your team is stuck having to work extra to pick up the slack, and then if 90% of women don't wind up coming back it's just that much longer before you can find someone decent to fill the position.


90% of moms not coming back is an exaggeration for the bay area.

Part of what we're not talking about here (in this whole thread) is the cost of child care. Child care in SF is over $1700 a month, and hard to find for 3 month olds, which is why a lot of parents quit after leave.

I reckon we'll get a lot more parents staying in the workforce if the government helped more with childcare across all income ranges. Childcare comes at a lower income time of life, often when around when people have recently purchased a home.

We're also likely to have fewer parents drop out of the workforce if they can get their infants to 6+ months with a parent. Childcare is easier to find for 6 month olds than 3 month olds.


I looked it up, the stat is 43% of mothers leave the work force after having a baby. Yeah, 90% is an exaggeration, but 43% is a huge chunk of women. This isn't intended to debate you, just to put a real number on it. The article I got this stat from talks about some of the things you mentioned.

I'm far from an expert so I could be totally wrong but the little bit of literature I've read on outcomes for children suggests a full time stay at home parent provides the best outcomes. That almost certainly doesn't have to be the mom specifically, but if we're going to subsidize behavior, I would prefer to subsidize whatever behavior provides the best outcomes for children. The article below suggests part time work from home opportunities with deadline based projects. That might be a reasonable answer, but again someone with actual expertise on child rearing/psychology should set policy here. The best outcomes might not be [parent] getting back to work in 6 months or even a year.

https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/04/why-43-of-...


If 43% of women leave the workforce after having a child, it’s still more likely than not that your employee is coming back. And my guess is that the number of women who plan to come back and then don’t is much smaller than 43%, because - to the surprise of many - women often know what they want in life. (That snark is not aimed at you, btw, just that this thread is full of people second-guessing women.)


It's ok to name companies that do bad things, even if it's effectively a powerful company like Google. Especially if it's a powerful company like Google, they are almost a nation-state at this point.


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This sounds contrived, at the very least extremely anecdotal with a bit of hyperbole sprinkled on top.


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There is both an abnormal amount of promotions that you have somehow personally witnessed -- doesn't sound like you were even involved with, we'll also ignore implicit psychological biases here -- while you happened to overhear THE core group of people involved in some conspiracy to enable your overall incredibly inordinary talking point.

There's a word for this: contrived.

It is extremely unlikely that such a company would exist in the current landscape, one willing to needlessly promote women, especially when considering their prior or current pregnancy status. I'm having myself a pretty big giggle.


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>I only wanted to highlight there are companies on the other side of the spectrum too.

I am fully aware of that, hence some of my statements. I think it's contrived and not being completely honest, at the very least it seems pretty irrelevant.


The article has a form to fill out to submit additional anecdotes; you should encourage her to do that if she's comfortable. I bet Google would really like NYT readers to think this is only a thing that happens at "other companies" and people need to know that it definitely isn't.


How many days/months/years between a) joining the company and b) informing of the pregnancy?

I know the law doesn't care, but I care. There's a difference between informing your manager one month after you're hired that you're pregnant (been there, felt totally fooled - as the manager, that is) and will need to take time off quite soon, and doing it like a year or so later.

The "always positive performance reviews" bit implies some sizeable amount of time before the announcement, which is why I'm asking.


A friend of mine interviewed and was hired while pregnant, and disclosed that fact immediately after signing her contract. The response, correctly, was "Oh. Well, we'll make that work." And they did.

That's both the legal thing to do and the ethical thing to do. What else are you proposing?


What do you want people to do when they are job searching while pregnant? Are you just wishing you'd been told on her first day on the job?


Let me answer this with a counter-question. If you're pregnant and somehow hiding it really well, do you think it makes sense for you to job-hunting six weeks before you're due to give birth?


Literally the only reason to tell a prospective employer about your pregnancy status is to enable them to unlawfully discriminate against you based on that status.


You are, obviously, completely correct on the point that you raise. However, I am sold on those sort of laws on the basis that employers are discriminating on irrelevant dimensions, like race and gender.

An employee expecting, or indeed planning, to take a X months leave Y months after joining, with X > Y, isn't an irrelevant dimension. Especially if parental leave is paid, but I don't know if that is how the US handles leave.

An employee literally cannot be a high quality, productive worker if they are not working. Employers should not be forced to ignore relevant factors when hiring. That isn't fair on them.


While we're at it, why shouldn't any prospective employee with a health condition that might require extensive time off be required to disclose that? And, since people aren't often the best judge of their health conditions and the impositions they'll make on future employers, perhaps it'd be better if we all just disclosed our complete medical records along with our job applications.


Well, philosophically, at some point yes. There should be some level of personal responsibility not to sign up for a job that you don't intend to do. I don't think being required to provide detailed medical records is reasonable, a good faith, optimistic best-case is enough for me.

And while you might see pregnancy as equivalent to having a medical condition there are actually a number of fairly important differences. For example, in the modern era, pregnancy is more controllable than illness. Quite a number of people enthusiastically plan on it. Those aspects, intent and control, are important for determining who should bear the cost. The cost should not settle on an unwitting employer looking for a new hire.


I have a health condition which causes me to be suddenly absent for a week at a time 1-4 times a year. I absolutely disclose this to any prospective employer because I don’t want them to grumble when it happens.


It points to the state sponsored solution. If a single employer is supposed to carry the burden then they will obviously want to hire young healthy men above anyone else.

Fortunately this is exactly how it's implemented in most European countries: if the employee is not working the employer doesn't pay. The (usually state run) insurer does.

Requiring businesses to pay for someone taking time to care of their children is patently stupid and unjust and there is fully justified pushback against such laws.


"Employers should not be forced to ignore relevant factors when hiring."

But they are - that's the law. The same legal system that allows the corporation to exist at all and earn money in this environment requires them to ignore the fact that someone may be going on maternal leave and not discriminate based on it.

We the voters have decided that this is more important than the profits of any company, and in the end the voters (i.e. mostly employees) get to decide the rules of society, not the companies.


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Let's try a re-frame. This isn't necessarily how I'd prefer to argue, but it might be a more productive way to explain the point to some people.

In the United States, there are many people who are in the reserve of the military, or in the National Guard. They often need to take some amount of time away from work for regular training and refresher sessions with the rest of their unit, in order to stay ready for wartime or domestic-emergency (since they also play a large role in responses to natural disasters) duty.

As a society, we've decided this is important enough to our future security to make it illegal to discriminate in hiring against someone who has obligations as a member of the reserves or National Guard, illegal to fire them for taking time away from work to fulfill those obligations, and illegal to force them to use their ordinary vacation time to cover that time away. And even if a reservist or Guard is called to extended active service, they have the right to return to their previous employer so long as that service does not exceed five years.

We've made that choice because, for each individual employer, the temptation is strong to let some other sucker hold a spot for a Guard or reservist, and not waste any of your business' money on them. Which is a tragedy of the commons situation.

Children are similarly an issue of security for our society. There is significantly less point to building things today, if nobody will be around tomorrow. So we, as a society, have also decided that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of choosing to have children.

You seem to have a problem with the second of these. Do you also have a problem with the first? If so, how do you find a consistent position that reaches those two different conclusions?


If society agrees your employee is doing something more important than work, fine, but then society should compensate you rather than demanding you take it in the shorts (and all the ugly incentives that creates).


If you disagree that this is a useful thing, you can move to a society which shares your views.

If your attitude is purely one of "don't use any of my money to do this", well, a government-run compensation system would be tax-funded and would use... some of your money. In fact, it would probably just be implemented similarly to employer payroll taxes, so it would mean you'd get to pay into it even if you somehow manage never to have an employee who has a child. Then you could complain about paying into a system that's not paying back out to you!

Or you could just learn to deal with the price of living in a civilized society, and accept that while this may be one specific benefit you'll never take advantage of, there are plenty of benefits you do get to take advantage of, that perhaps others don't, and that they pay into them regardless.

(and that's without considering that hiring and onboarding replacement employees is expensive, too, if your policy is to fire/not hire people who choose to have children, so please be sure to consider that as one of your costs)


That's what I'm arguing for, the burden should fall fairly across all taxpayers rather than solely upon the hapless employers who ignored the massive incentives to discriminate against soldiers and parents.


Does the company have a paid leave policy? Does said policy restrict when this paid leave can be taken in respect to hiring date? If people follow company policy, then why are you complaining again?


Companies aren't required to make maternity leave available to new hires immediately, or to pay for it. They simply aren't allowed to make employment decisions based on pregnancy status or plans.


I literally just did this — my wife is 9 months pregnant and I told them during the interview and was assured that my taking leave right away wouldn’t be a problem.


Because they are not wretched at risk analysis. They have at least a child’s understanding that humans are not machines, and there is a high variability in week to week performance, but overall the humans are a net gain.

Basically the same reasons you don’t invest in the 100% returns every year “investment opportunity”


Cuz it’s the law. Also, statistically it comes out in the wash.


You are making my argument for me. Thank you.


A company doesn't just exist for the benefit of its shareholders. It exists for the benefit of society and its employees.

And quite crying about down-votes.


Well... not really. In the sense that shareholders can sue a corporation they own if the management is not acting in their best interest while society cannot, a corporations main purpose is to provide profit to shareholders


Laws are precisely how society imposes its concerns on corporations. The concept of a corporation only exists in the first place because society decided such a thing was useful. The purpose of corporations is whatever society decides it is.


I agree with you. I was stating current reality, not making a moral statement


FUCK yes. Kids cost money. Jobs are how you get money. And I say this as someone who hired a woman who then told us she would give birth in two months, and we were fine.


[flagged]


What you seem to be saying is that instead of looking for a job, pregnant women should rob a bank? Honestly, I have no idea what point you are trying to make.

The logic of: "Babies are expensive, therefor I cannot stay unemployed for 6 months before I find a job" seems completely sound and reasonable to me. Where is that logic lacking? What practical alternative would you propose?


I explicitly wrote that I did not mean that, thinking that someone would inevitably misunderstand.


You may be trying to make a point, but you're not succeeding. A sarcastic guess: robbing banks makes money, and having a job makes money so having a job is logically equivalent to robbing banks and therefore being employed is bad.


Wow, that sounds like straight up fraud to me. Do companies in America get financial support from the government for employees on pregnancy leave?


My team has hired more than one person that immediately went on leave. We literally paid them for months before they started. We did this knowingly, and I cite this with other candidates as a concrete example of how well we treat our employees.

Guess what, in our industry the people that are planning to have kids are also very likely to be senior and experienced. They're hard to recruit. Consider leave as part of the cost of hiring good people.

If you're not doing things like this, you're not actually competing for top talent.


>We did this knowingly

Great, but the parent poster is hiding(again, rightfully so) their planned leave from their future employer.


Fraud is intentionally misrepresenting information in order to affect how the other party would act to cause a financial gain/loss. It is illegal for the other party to change how they act based on information about a pregnancy, therefore there is no legally admissible injury to the company. Legally, you're probably in about the same situation as a drug dealer accusing someone of stealing some of his goods - if you can prove that they actually caused you damages (ie: that you had a stash of drugs, or that you would deliberately not hire a candidate because they were pregnant), you're worse off than before.


Do companies you work at not hire employees for the long term?


They mainly hire people to replace others that quit/retired or to fill a new position created to support a team with a steadily growing workload. New hires are subject to a 3 month probation period during which both parties can end the contract at will. More than 80% of all positions are long term.

I would hope that someone looking for a long term employment at a company would be honest and upfront with something like a planned 1-year vacation. My only gripe with the parent poster is that they are hiding(rightfully so) this so close before their planned leave and thus do not appear serious about a long term employment at that company.


I sure hope you are not involved with hiring at your company because your perspective on this is a great way to get sued into oblivion.

It's actually in your best interest as the hiring company to not find out if the person is pregnant or expecting to have a child. Let's say that you decided not to hire someone for a set of reasons unrelated to pregnancy, but along the way you asked the candidate if they were planning to get pregnant. Good luck proving that you didn't make the hiring decision on the basis of knowing they would take leave. Which of course is illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This is why most companies make it a policy that you can not ask these kinds of questions so as not to taint the interview (even though technically it's not illegal to ask the questions, it's just illegal to use them as a basis for your decision).

As a candidate you might actually be acting more in the interest of the company to not tell them you are going to be having a child so as not to put them in that position? I honestly haven't thought through it that much so I could be convinced of a different opinion.

If you're planning to continue working after having a child, I think you should go about your career as if the pregnancy wasn't happening and just take the leave as appropriate. If that means you work 6 weeks before leave, so be it. You'll be back after leave to continue on.

What would the company do if instead of getting pregnant you got hit by a bus one day? I had to take 2 months of medical leave on 2 weeks notice when I got deathly ill, that was way less notice than a pregnancy. The startup I was at had only 12 people and they handled it. I'm unconvinced by all these arguments that it's too much of a hardship for companies to deal with their employees having a life.


People get hit by buses, but would you hire someone who you KNEW was going to get hit by a bus in six weeks?


1 year vacation? ROFL. In America 3 months of paid maternity leave is a good dead. Also, in America both parties can end a job at will at any time. Also also, referring to parental leave as "vacation" is pretty weird.


Raising a newborn is not a vacation, that’s a highly insulting statement.


If you knew you had to take time off in two months to recover from a scheduled medical operation, would you rather spend the next two months earning a salary or surviving on your savings?


My wife been searching for a job for quite some time (about a 2-3 years), during that time we've been trying to conceive a baby, but no luck, went through few eco sessions, still no dice. We decided to give up on idea of having a baby and just relax and live our lives. Then suddenly she gets a job offer she was dreaming about and one week later, guess what? She is pregnant. Now what would you tell your wife? Give up job you've been dreaming about?


If you're un-/under-employed and need the money, of course.

If your old job doesn't provide halfway decent health benefits or paid parental leave, of course.

If your old job sucks your soul and makes you want to slit your wrists, of course.


I think it always makes sense to go looking for a job when you don't have one and you wish to be an independent adult and support yourself through employment.

But, obviously, we're not talking the same kind of "makes sense" here, are we?


a) 2 years, b) ~4 months in

And yeah, I would understand it better if she had just joined or it was a smaller company. We we're in extra shock because the company goes out of their way to publicly promote these benefits and the work-life balance blabla.


Ok, gotcha. I'm also kind of shocked by that kind of behavior by Google. This goes against so much of their employer branding that they've spent so much on.

(Was it in Ad sales? - I guess I could see that unit being run in a more "rough" way - sales teams tend to be super macho.)


"How many days/months/years between a) joining the company and b) informing of the pregnancy?"

It can't be more than 9 months. A year, tops.

In all seriousness, if you've gotten multiple performance reviews, that implies they've been there for a while.


That's disgustingly unethical.


Google doesn't offer 12 month paid leave. Are you thinking of a different company? Edit: sorry, this is a U.S. centered viewpoint. Other countries will mandate different leave policies.


"WE had twins so SHE wasn't going back to work anyway"

I'd say you were discriminating her way more than Google.

Kids are ruinous for women careers but only partly for practice like one described.

The other reason is that we as families, partners and society in general accept that kids are, essentially, a woman job.


Some women actually like taking care of children more than working their job.


This area is really tough. I feel terrible for women who experience this bias, but the solution is not nearly as obvious as with race/gender/age/religious/etc discrimination. In those cases the answer is: stop being biased.

Let's say you're a small company and you can really only afford to have <10 people on your payroll. Let's say you're considering two candidates of exactly equal skills and age: a 28yo man and a 28yo woman.

Even if they both plan to have 2 kids in the next 4 years, it's a biological reality that it will take the woman away from work for longer. She has the 9 months of pregnancy where she may be tired or uncomfortable, then the actual delivery, then recovery, and then often a period of breast feeding. The man could be father of the century but there are certain burdens that fall on women because of their sex.

So while I'd like to force the startup to make the decision without considering this factor, is that always reasonable?

And before the downvotes come: I am really on the side of pregnant women here. I want them to get generous leave without any effect on their careers. But I am questioning if that is always possible.


It wouldn't be much of a problem if there are better government organized programs in place. In fact, California's paid parental leave is funded by employees and is a relatively small tax of 0.9% (over the first $110k of wages only)[1] that includes other disability pay.

[1] http://www.edd.ca.gov/Payroll_Taxes/Rates_-_Historical.htm


I'm glad CA's PFL program exists, and by American standards, it's very good.

But it only pays 60% of income, for 6 weeks, and up to a level under the salary of most in product-engineering-design in tech. Most tech companies true up salary above the PFL levels for those 6 weeks (and potentially pay 100% for more weeks), and in SF, truing up to 100% for those 6 weeks is required for companies above a certain size.


How does vesting usually work if you take the extra CA PFL?


What do you mean by "extra" on "extra CA PFL"?

Companies I am familiar with continue vesting through the full length of their paid parental leave.


If you're a 10 person company and more than 7 people are day-to-day critical you're going to have a lot of issues.

When we were 8 people we had 2 parents go on 4 months of leave (with 3 month overlap). We missed them and vacation time was a little limited, but everything was fine.

Companies need to account for the fact that they're comprised of human beings that reproduce. In terms of humanity you can't get much more fundamental than reproduction.


> Companies need to account for the fact that they're comprised of human beings that reproduce.

If think that's the point, companies do account for that, by discriminating against women, onto which the bulk of the burden of reproduction falls.

Correcting this incentive structure is a prime job for government, else literally nothing can exist in few generations.


I meant that companies need to account for it as an inevitable expense, avoiding it is completely unethical and if someone's party to that decision making process they need to take a good look at themselves.


By the same token, people fall ill, grow old, and eventually die. The ethical company that covers all those expense for an indefinite duration for it's employees will go bankrupt in the face of competitors that do not.

If the government does not intervene to force all companies to shoulder the cost on behalf of the society and distribute the costs to everyone else through prices, then it's hard to say it's unethical for a company not to offer free health care, retirement, disability, life and funeral insurance to each and every current or former employee.


Workers comp, retirement funds, health insurance, and life insurance. Our company contributes all of those in some way... to not cover birth seems a bit silly by comparison.


It actually isn't a biological reality that the woman is away from work for longer. What's actually happening is that the man isn't expected to be away as long as the woman, so he doesn't take as much leave. It's a form of discrimination to make it the woman's problem because she's the one laid up in the hospital.

Just because women are bearing the physical burden of the pregnancy, it doesn't mean it's solely their burden. We're making the choice that it should be their burden. We could just as easily provide subsidies and insurance to companies to cover family leave. If we value childbirth as a society, then we should put our money where our mouth is and actually pay for it somehow.


> it actually isn't a biological reality that the woman is away from work for longer. What's actually happening is that the man isn't expected to be away as long as the woman, so he doesn't take as much leave. It's a form of discrimination to make it the woman's problem because she's the one laid up in the hospital.

That's not completely correct when you factor in breastfeeding. Nowadays we do have the ability to overcome this with pumping, but if the parents decide they want to only breastfeed their baby naturally, without a bottle, this pretty much requires the mother to be with the baby for at least a few months.

This is a pretty common choice and situation for various reasons.


I think you're continuing to add variables that disfavor women - but it's feasible to grant breaks so that women can feed their children in the middle of the day.

This feels like a problem of will, and maybe male chauvinism, not biology.


I didn't say it isn't. I'm just pointing out the fact that it's not an analgous situation between men and women.

This is not even mentioning the fact of the pregnancy itself, which ranges from no biggie, to several months of severely reduced capability. My wife basically couldn't function (as in curled up in bed) for almost two months during her pregnancy.


I'm not writing this out of any sort of pique - I just think this is an opportunity to think 'outside the box'.

Your wife's (very unfortunate) experience is not typical - most women won't require two months of bed rest.

Let's consider people with depression: most will perform their jobs normally, while some will require months of medically-mandated time off. Should employers discriminate based on the possibility to develop depression? I'd say it's far more likely than becoming pregnant if one accounts for the entire workforce.


How can you say this with a straight face?! It's a fact that (some) women need to stay off work (bed-ridden before birth, in hospital after birth). It's also a fact that men don't need to.

Obviously, men don't need to work and women don't need to take care of the kids (above and beyond what's biologically required of them), but (1) on average, outcomes will be influenced by underlying biological reality, and (2) it's a fantasy thinking that people can take time off work - e.g. a poor family with a newborn, you really think that any parent will take off more time than they absolutely need to, biologically?

Finally (3) yeah there are possible social levers we can use to counter this biological reality and enforce equality of outcomes, but ultimately, we need to decide what we want - why is women working more better than women spending more time with the children? Personally, I look up to Netherlands, one of the happiest countries on Earth, where many women work just part-time.


> How can you say this with a straight face?! It's a fact that (some) women need to stay off work (bed-ridden before birth, in hospital after birth). It's also a fact that men don't need to.

You're referring to a timescale of days which a woman will likely need to spend in hospital. I believe jschwartzi is referring to the weeks/months of maternity/paternity leave following the initial birth. There isn't a hard biological reason not to evenly share the load after the immediate medical concerns are completed.


My mother was bed-bound for several months during pregnancy. It's more common than you think.


What you're describing is a special medical scenario, not a universal burden shared by all women. Health problems can disable people of any gender.


>> It's a fact that (some) women need to stay off work (bed-ridden before birth, in hospital after birth).

Note: some pregnant women need to stay off work, but all women are treated in the same way by their employers.

That is unfair.


> Personally, I look up to Netherlands, one of the happiest countries on Earth, where many women work just part-time.

As a Dutch person: this stereotype needs to stop. The Netherlands is a country like any other, with big problems and defenitely not the happiest people on earth. The Many women work part-time here because the tax is so high due to corruption its not rewarding to actually work. Last year suicide was the most common cause of death among people between 20 and 40 years. The Netherlands is the country where most drugs worldwide are made, transported and used. XTC is the biggest export of this country, which leads to high criminality and assassinations on the streets.


Interesting, thanks! I was basing my opinion mainly on an Economist article (IIRC), great to hear a first-hand opinion!


The only reason you're looking at it as a biological reality is that you're looking for ways for pregnancy to be disadvantageous in our society as our social customs and mores are today. You're assuming that the social structures and mores can't change.

The reason it's not a biological disadvantage in my mind is because society doesn't have to be structured to disadvantage people because of that biology. Other posters have made the point that if men simply took the same time off as women do then that would weaken discrimination against pregnant women. And others have suggested social insurance for companies who have to fill temporary vacancies due to childbirth. So again, we've structured our society so that pregnancy is a disadvantage and it doesn't have to be.

The disconnect is that you keep saying how things are and we keep telling you that things don't have to be this way.


I’m actually thinking the other way round. If you want to change the society, you first need to know the (biological) truth instead of denying it.

If we’re talking about salaried employees, clearly people who cannot work as many hours (pregnant women) will be less valuable than people who can work more (everybody else). You won’t change this reality by legislating that employers shouldn’t be realistic. On the other hand, you might nudge reality (i.e. make pregnant women worth comparatively more to employers) by e.g. awarding companies that hire pregnant women (i.e. a direct monetary payoff to offset the implicit loss of a less productive worker). But noone is talking about such solutions because they’re too busy lying with straight faces for their own political benefit.


> is that always reasonable?

This is why remote-only work culture is so important for social justice in tech. Flexible working hours from home gives women the freedom to work from their recovery beds, walk away from the computer to feed their newborns, be there to give their kids a snack and ask them how was school when they get home.

One of the best hiring strategies is to focus on workers whom the market is undervaluing, for whatever prejudice. Remote-only allows you to take the real career-related risks that pregnancy and motherhood imposes and completely mitigate them.


>This is why remote-only work culture is so important for social justice in tech. Flexible working hours from home gives women the freedom to work from their recovery beds, walk away from the computer to feed their newborns, be there to give their kids a snack and ask them how was school when they get home.

Although I agree in principle, I can think of few things as horrifying as new mothers working from a hospital bed, it's practically dystopian.

IMO the way of fixing the discrimination issue is equal maternity and paternity leave, along with increasing the amount of leave. If both parents are going to take the same time off then there's less of an issue.


She doesn't have to work from the hospital bed if she has paid maternal leave. Even better if the father has paid paternal leave and can help when she's recovering.

Being a Swede, it's just so unreal when I hear about how it is in the US.


Good luck doing anything resembling work when you're having a newborn at home and haven't sleep properly in weeks.


Thought experiment: would it still be a (meaningful) difference if the father would get the same leave as the mother?


It would hinder the employment for anyone, regardless of gender, who expects to have children.


I don't think so, in Scandinavia we have a very low unemployment rate and Stockholm is one of the most vibrant tech hubs of Europe. We offer every employee some of the most generous paternal and maternal leaves in the world. You can take time off for your children even when they're 11 years old if you save up some days (you get months off that you can take whenever you like).

We also have some of the most generous laws for taking care of your sick child. If you fire an employee because they're taking care of a sick child all the time, boy is your business in for a world of hurt.

The unemployment rate is lowest for people in their 30s, which is the time in life when it's likely people will either be getting a child or they already have a child at home that needs to be looked after. It might have something to do with our government subsidised daycare though.


Employees always pays for it one way or another, high skill salaries are very low in Sweden and I'd guess that this is a big reason.


We don't pay for health care or higher education and we have good pension plans that are government subsidized, though. We pay a lot but get a lot.


I agree, I was in talks to move from Amsterdam to NY, including a substantial (think 50%+) pay increase, and realized that after paying 2-3x for housing, 5-10x for healthcare, and substantially higher cost for education of the kids, quality of living would actually go down, even though net income would double.

Numbers for comparison: - full year tuition at a Dutch university is ~2000 euro (and they are all considered about equally good, something that is difficult to explain to people used to the US/UK system) - annual payment for healthcare is about ~1300 euro - living in a good apartment in a nice part of amsterdam will cost you between 1200-1800 euro/month (600sq.ft, 2 beds, yes our buildings are smaller)


Excuse me for being flippant but, I don't care if you're a 10- or 10,000- person company, but I'm going to take >4 weeks of vacation per year and if you can't handle that then you don't deserve to exist in the market.


There is a huge difference between a few weeks of vacation a year (probably taken in 1-2 week chunks) and multiple continuous months of parental leave. The latter can absolutely kill a startup, especially when the person leaving is a subject matter expert in a critical area.


> probably taken in 1-2 week chunks

if that wasn't mentioned in the employment agreement, then you (the boss) just lied about the conditions of employment.

I think a startup deserves the right to not hire somebody who plans to take multiple months off (without telling the boss), but a startup also needs to be upfront about it. I think a bit of transparency goes a long way towards making the market more efficient.


Almost all contracts require you to agree on the vacation schedule beforehand with your boss.

If your contract does't have that either the company is very, very lax or their lawyer is incompetent.


Third time I post this: my partner's company is a small startup of ~12 people and 7 of their women employees became pregnant and had babies while working for them. One of them was a very important manager, who gave birth to twins and came back within a month. The company is doing just fine, thank you.

If a startup dies because it's hiring human beings, it should maybe start to pivot into employing dogs? Or robots, of course.


Whoosh, your 4 weeks isn't comparable to 2 months of degraded quality of life and recovery after pregnancy. Not to mention the children if the father is also working full time.


Like I say in another comment, my partner works for a small startup of ~12 people, 7 of whom became pregnant and gave birth in the last five years or so, while working for the company.

The company manages just fine. It's a small startup of a dozen people. Almost two thirds of their employees had babies and the company's productivity never suffered from it. Fact, one of the ladies had twins and came back after a month, to continue ruling over the lesser mortals with an iron hand.

So I can say with convicton that there is no logic in claiming that a woman's productivity has to take a hit if she has babies. Much less any "biological reality" to any of what you have written.

You just severely understimate pregnant women and mothers, is all.


I know severely women in my family who had exceptional academic and early careers. Once they had their kids, their drive to work dropped dramatically. Even my female CEO has been a lot less consistent as a productive performer compared to what she used to be pre-kid.

That's not to say that I think all mothers are like that or that it's a bad thing per se since I'm all about work-life balance, but I can see where companies are coming from when it comes to trying to find someone who they can maximize output.


> Fact, one of the ladies had twins and came back after a month

In most cases this isn't optimal for the baby, mother, father or society. Just because one family decides to do it that way doesn't mean we should support a system that punishes those that don't make the same decision.


"So while I'd like to force the startup to make the decision without considering this factor, is that always reasonable?"

I believe it is. As a society, we've decided that being able to continue the population is more important than the fortunes of any particular startup.


> As a society, we've decided that being able to continue the population is more important than the fortunes of any particular startup.

Maybe we could take this out of the hands of the startup and have society subsidize it?


Some societies do.

I'm writing from Canada. Mother and/or father can share up to 35 weeks of paid leave under the national insurance program. This maxes out at, I think, approx $500 per week. It's not a lot. But it helps.

Regarding societal values, this the same program that would normally pay you temporarily if you were laid off (not by choice). Normally you wouldn't be eligible to collect benefits if you willingly left a job. Pregnancy is generally considered to be a choice, so I think making these benefits available to parents shows society does value the choice to parent and will subsidize it.

Parents who adopt a child receive significant additional benefits on top of the standard allowance.

Recently there have been changes to the program to improve benefits for self-employed. As we on HN know ... sometimes a startup founder isn't "employed" or receiving salary in the usual sense and historically it was difficult for such professionals to receive employment insurance benefits but it's changing.

Anyways, progress? :-)


> I'm writing from Canada. Mother and/or father can share up to 35 weeks of paid leave under the national insurance program. This maxes out at, I think, approx $500 per week. It's not a lot. But it helps.

This. I'm writing from Australia- it looks like we only get $622.10 for 18 weeks, but it seems like a nice middle ground to support new parents. At that low price I would probably agree that 35 weeks is reasonable.

I get confused when people argue strongly against the middle ground position. I don't even want to have kids but I don't begrudge the use of public money in this way- it's a direct investment in the future of society which shields both parents and businesses from undue financial stress without being profligate or forcing too much ideology on the rest of us.


As an addendum, this leads to much less toxic work culture around pregenancies in Canada; it never feels like a “burden”, it’s just part of life. Combined with the fact that our tech salaries tend to be half that of the US, most companies are well protected from pregnancies because it a) doesn’t cost them much and b) they can hire more people to fill the gaps.


IIRC, it's 15 weeks at 55% for maternal benefits (only for the birth mother), and either 35 weeks of parental benefits at 55% or 61 weeks of parental benefits at 33% (can be shared between parents of biological or adopted child). And I'm sure many employers do top it off somewhat.


>As a society, we've decided that being able to continue the population is more important than the fortunes of any particular startup.

Err no. It wasn't long ago that a family could survive well on a single income with the mother at home, cars paid, schooling sorted and food on the table. Not even remotely feasible on a single income now, unless you're talking executive pay.

Society has by and large chosen to abandon the family when it comes to supporting reproduction. Hell, we're told that we aren't reproducing at rates enough to replace us and that the only solution is bringing in cheap immigrants (got to keep those wages down) rather than making having more kids more accessible to the people already here.

Society has chosen rabid capitalism at virtually every cost possible.


>> Not even remotely feasible on a single income now, unless you're talking executive pay.

Yes it is. Just not if you want to live in really nice cities and have a ton of stuff.

If you want to live in a suburb, commute, not own much in the way of technology, and own a house 30% of the size of what people live in now, then yeah, that's doable.

Housing costs have inflated and that's worthy of note. But so have our expectations of comfort and life, and those have outpaced earning potentials.


My parents had a 2,500 sq. ft. house on 5 acres of land. They've replaced their vehicles about every 5 years. I remember twice-yearly vacations where we flew out to Mexico or the eastern seaboard. I was, by current standards, spoiled rotten when it comes to the money my parents spent on tech for me. They've both been able to retire (including snowbird trips to AZ) without worries about money due to a pension and investments.

All of this from a single, blue collar worker's income. The same job that pays $13 an hour today. I, working in the tech industry with a great paying job in a rural city, with a working wife, couldn't begin to reproduce their lifestyle without incurring absurd amounts of debt.

You'll have a hard time convincing me that it's our expectations which have changed the most.


I could easily replicate my familial upbringing if I lived in one of the cities I grew up in (Cleveland) and had my father's single income as an electrician with my mother working part-time (mostly for her own sanity, not income). I've checked real estate prices and cost of living there, it's totally doable. Not much has changed there; if anything, tradesman jobs are in desperate need of good journeymen and apprentices as tons of kids go to college instead of exploring blue-collar jobs.

Where I live now (Seattle), hell no. But Seattle was a lot different 30 years ago.

And if I just kept my last job w/ a salary in the mid 100Ks and worked remotely, I'd live like a king in Cleveland. I literally wouldn't know what to buy or where to live. In Seattle I live in a "bad" area in a townhome that I could barely afford during the dip and now I won the idiot's lottery and am sitting on a property that has appreciated by double.

But through it all, Cleveland still exists. And I could easily live in a suburb of Cleveland and get a decent enough bungalow boring house for under 100k that doesn't need any work done to it except a paint job.

I bet I'd get even more value in Detroit or maybe Pittsburgh.


>> You'll have a hard time convincing me that it's our expectations which have changed the most.

And all this is because women now have careers, instead of being stay-at-home moms?

(Apologies if I misunderstood your comment. I'm trying to connect it to what the GP said.)


The beginning and the end of my comment was "it's not just our expectations that have changed." My comment was merely to help describe why it is not just be that with a personal data point.

That said, it's highly likely there is some correlation between wages (and housing costs) and the doubling the potential labor pool, but that's another topic for another day.


Don’t forget feminism’s role in this as well. The traditional working father/stay at home mother arrangement has been deemed oppressive and degrading to women.


The missing ingredient from your description is: freedom.

It is not degrading for a parent to choose to prioritize family matters over income.

It is degrading for society to tell a person what their personal priorities will be based on a chromosome.


I'm pretty sure the role of feminism in all this is, "women can do whatever the hell they want, if they wanna be a SAHM, that's fine, and if they don't, that's fine, too."


Modern feminism does not think in terms of freedom but in terms of ideological dogma: women should behave in certain ways to shake of the shackles put on them by the patriarchy. Women who consciously choose to stay at home are seen as deluded victims, not as free agents of their own choice. Take your pick of the wealth of articles written on the subject...

https://www.google.com/search?q=stay+home+mother+feminism

...and you'll find quotes like:

Feminism doesn’t see our child-rearing, much less all that goes with it, as valuable. There is no glory, no glass ceiling in poo-wiping, or mac and cheese cooking, or alphabet-teaching. There isn’t even value in breastfeeding, which you’d think would be vaunted in feminist circles for using the female body for something only women can do. Alas, it’s just a ball-and-chain, as Huffington Post says: “Breastfeeding has become the last legitimate ‘women’s work’ — the only argument remaining for a gendered division of labor that argues that women’s place is at home with the children.”

...

...we should be doing what we want to do, and what we want to do is not take care of someone else. How could we possibly wa ...nt that? The idea of our happiness is absurd to mainstream feminism.*

...

(Simone de Beauvoir) “No woman should be authorized to stay home to raise her children. Women should not have that choice, because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”

...

(Sarrah le Marquand) “Rather than wail about the supposed liberation in a woman’s right to choose to shun paid employment, we should make it a legal requirement that all parents of children of school-age or older are gainfully employed"


Consider what happens if you are in an abusive relationship, or a relationship that turns abusive, and your sole employable skills are ten years of home-making.


"Oh, my insignificant family life is ruined, but at least I still have options when it comes to a fulfilling and meaningful career!"

"Oh, I have cancer. But at least I'll be saving money on haircuts soon!"

... not quite good enough.

"Going on an air trip with your family of four? Well, if you divert your attention to handling four parachutes, you're more likely to make a mistake, so you'd better just prepare one parachute just your yourself. That way, when the plane's in its terminal dive, you can abandon your family to their deaths and make it out alive."

Something more like that, although that's absurd.

Your view of the situation is inverted and immoral. A relationship is what might actually make life worth living for you. Your skills are how you get a job, and "ten years of home-making" just means that your lonely, pathetic existence, post-relationship, has a few less luxuries in it.


I think you've misread the comment you're replying to.

Someone in an abusive relationship is well-served by getting _out_ of that relationship. If they have no job skills, they're subject to crippling financial pressure to remain in a situation that's harmful to them, in addition to all the other pressure they're already under.


One major issue in this scenario: you don’t know who wants/can/will have kids. Discriminating against women because they have a uterus and might get pregnant and might have a problematic pregnancy and might carry to term and might give birth and might take parental leave is incredibly short-sighted - even in your scenario you’ve just missed out on 4+ years of work because you’re worried about a few (potential) months.

Beyond that, while (cis) women have the necessary equipment to have kids, we’re not the only ones with bodies that can get sick. Penalizing all women for one particular way of (potentially) disrupting work is incredibly unfair, and ignores that men also can need leaves of absence.


The point is that unlike things like race discrimination, when all other things are equal, there IS a real difference, no matter how small, in term of risk (and in practice, it's really not that small). I worked at a large company where most employees were women in the 20-35 yo rangeny for a while on HR project and saw some of the data. It was not pretty.

As a society though, we shouldn't let that be ground for discrimination. As you mentioned, not all women want or will have kids. Of those who do, many will have supportive significant others, and the difference in productivity will be negligible. Even if it wasn't, I don't want to live in a world where people have trouble getting a job because they might end up doing something a very significant portion of the population will do.

But it's still a fact that, given 2 exactly equivalent candidate, both in their mid twenties, one is a guy, one's a woman, there is a well known, significant short to medium term risk in the later, if only looking at it from a local maximum perspective. We as a society need to find a way to artificially make up for it.

My personal favorite solution is to give both men and women equal (mandatory?) parental leaves, and no difference if its an adoption, same sex partners, or anything like that. Yes, women have an actual medical need, yes it might not be quite representative of reality, but that equalizes the risk from an employer perspective. No difference between the man and the woman (bonus point, it will help even out parental contribution and responsabilities at home).

That still leaves the age discrimination, but considering ageism is often against older people, that might really just even things out a little.


Mandatory leave for both parents is a terrible idea. There are a lot of people who prefer traditional model where one parent works and the other takes care of children and home. Why would you force those people to loie according to some relatively modern untested family model?


If you can only afford 10 people, you can usually also get by with 9. Even a healthy male full-time employee is a much bigger commitment financially to a company than just the salary number (i.e. you need to pay payroll taxes, insurance, benefits, equipment, recruiter fees, etc)

If you're going to be stretched thin financially after hiring a single new person, you probably shouldn't be hiring.


Here's an equally logical statement: If you only have 10 fingers, you can usually also get by with 9. Even a healthy finger consumes a non-trivial amount of oxygen from your blood and has a nail that must be trimmed so it's not a big deal if you accidentally chop one of them off. If the loss of a finger would endanger your livelihood, you probably shouldn't be in that profession in the first place.


If you're trying to suggest that you should hire if you had 1M/yr revenue and 9 employees making 100k each, go ahead and try doing the accounting math for a new hire and see how that goes, vs if you were making 2M/yr.


I'm suggesting that your blanket statement about the triviality of hiring or not hiring a 10th employee is patently absurd on multiple levels. Even the dichotomy you posed in your reply is nonsensical - why is your assumption that the 2 options for revenue are 1M vs 2M? What if it's 1.3M, and your 9 employees are barely able to handle the workload?


> What if it's 1.3M

Then you do your risk analysis and determine if the risk of the person not working out is something you can stomach. At 1M/yr, the risk is you hire a salesperson who gets you no new accounts after a year, existing revenue drops for other reasons and then you are forced to fire someone productive to make ends meet because you're 100k in the hole. At 1.3M/yr, maybe it'll be extremely stressful, but there's a least a fighting chance that you won't be in the red at the end of the year. At 2M/yr, the worst case will still suck, but it won't put your business anywhere near danger of extinction because you have a rainy day bank.

Revenue is often not directly tied to headcount. Even if your 9 employees can barely keep up, your revenue should still be rising over time until a time you can financially support another hire. If your revenue is not increasing, then increasing your headcount is likely going to make things worse, and more importantly, you should be questioning the viability of the business.


> Then you do your risk analysis and determine if the risk of the person not working out is something you can stomach

Yeah, duh. Apparently you do realize this tautologically obvious point despite your churlish and contrarian argumentation against it. The need to do risk analysis as it relates to potential pregnancy was the main thrust of the post that you dismissively replied to by saying that any business can do equally well with 9 employees as with 10 as if it were some kind of fundamental truth - despite that assertion being trivially easily disproven even by your own logic.


I said "get by", not "do equally well". My point is that if you can't handle the risk of a new hire going on mat leave two months into employment, then the reason you're discriminating is likely because you're in no financial shape to hire in the first place, not because the candidate wants to have a family, or has cancer surgery scheduled, or a family sickness or any of N number of reason someone might need to miss work.

Risk analysis is not the same thing as "hire based on pregnancy status". The former is accounting and math. The latter is discrimination and illegal.

In this thread, there seems to be this perverse line of thinking that the ends justify the means ("can't afford to hire a pregnant person but a man will surely help me grow my business!"). If you're one of the people already doing this and trying to make excuses, fine, keep making excuses and doing illegal things, but realize you're part of the problem.


> If the loss of a finger would endanger your livelihood, you probably shouldn't be in that profession in the first place.

If losing that finger is a common and reasonable expectation in your society, yes.


> If you can only afford 10 people, you can usually also get by with 9.

With that kind of logic why should the company even bother hiring a 10th person?


Because it has money in the bank, and it wants to invest it into growth.

Let's put it this way: if 9 people can only produce enough revenue to pay for themselves, it would be risky to take on a new large client if doing so required an upfront investment that completely depleted your cash reserves.

If things went south and you couldn't capitalize on your investment, you'd have no way to fund a pivot or a recovery strategy. If taking a new client only required a 10th of your bank and things went bad, it would still hurt but you'd have some breathing room. A new hire poses a similar risk.


You obviously live in inflated-margin land. I'm going to guess NY, SF, CS, or greater Denver (maybe austin) or worse, Academia.

Startups don't work this way in heavy industry, especially when jobs are on the line.

I envy you, actually.


This is finance management 101. Don't put all your eggs in one basket, don't bet money that you can't lose, etc.

> Startups don't work this way

Just because it's common nowadays to offload risks to early employees in startups doesn't make it less scummy. It's one thing to operate in guerrilla mode when it's two dudes in a garage struggling to get ramen profitable, but it's an entirely different ball game when one's hiding their inability to deliver with angel money and cruising on the back of a dozen employees.

My wife was let go from a startup shortly after returning from mat leave. The company went belly up a while later. It was already clear to me from her descriptions they were toying w/ people's expectations given there was no path to profitability, and a completely illogical hiring spree.

That's simply not how the vast majority of successful companies survive.


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