Hoping someone has some win win suggestions because I am struggling to find the best solution at this time:


One of my reports is recently pregnant and about 5 weeks into the pregnancy at this time.  I feel I have been presented with a lose lose request so I'm hoping someone might see a win?


My staff all are required to do shift work. Some shifts are loathed by all, and those are shared equally among them all.  This employee has requested to not do any of that shift work now- because of her pregnancy she needs her rest and has been feeling tired.

At this point I have left it at this- I am happy to work to accomodate any medical requirements but that I do need a doctors note stating exactly what shifts and type of work she can/cannot do.

She has gone to HR to ask if it is necessary for a doctors note and was told this would be at my discretion.  HR has said to me I could put it to the team and ask if they would take on doing these undesirable shifts for her  -if all support then good, but if any one person objects then continue with shifts as they are until medical note is provided.

I am not in support of that because it will put all the team members in an awkward situation and possibly compromise team working relationships.  I'd rather be the bad guy instead.

She is not happy with my response and I now feel this as really compromised the working relationship I have been working to build through our regular one on one's over the years.


I appreciate any other ideas or suggestions.



Smacquarrie's picture

Be the bad guy. Ask for the doctor's note, at which time you will make your decision. Until then she is expected to continue to support the company in the same capacity.
My wife was working in assembly up until the doctor pulled her out of work as the pregnancy got closer. If she is only 5 weeks into the pregnancy at this point there is no medical reason I know of, unless there are environmental or conditions that would jeopardize her health, that would keep her from performing shift work.


acao162's picture

You have to be the bad guy and ask for a doctor's note.  If she wants to use a "medical condition" to support her request for a different work assignment, she must provide a "medical report" from her doctor.  I'm sorry she's tired, but let's face it, having a non-sleeping baby (toddler, pre-schooler....) at home is also going to affect her rest.  So, unless you are willing to set a precedent (possibly only in her mind) that a baby is a reason to skip undesirable shifts, you could be setting yourself up for long-term pain. Children are no reason not to perform at the level expected.  I'm guessing many of your staff also have babies/children and are performing as expected.

What would you do for a staff person who came in with the same request (too tired to work those shifts) and gave their reason as cancer treatment, mental illness, or a physical injury (say, recovering from an accident)?  Wouldn't you ask for a note?  It isn't that you don't believe she's tired, you need documentation to excuse her.  Also, make sure there is an end date on the note - or you risk that she has medical evidence until baby enters college.

karl66's picture

This sounds like one that could have been prevented by good enough OOOs before: If I as a manager know about special conditions of my employee, it will be much easier to respond to them. Also, I'm wondering why the employee is not willing to go all the way herself (i.e.: get a medical note), but expects you to go all the way by pulling her out of the inconvenient shift. My answer: if I don't have a note, I cannot justify to the team to pull you out all the way. In respecting your biological condition, we will slowly easy out of the shifts of the course of the next month.

Ariashley's picture

How is her work otherwise?  I would refuse the request without a doctor's note specifying what kind of accomodation is needed.  Pregnancy does not make a person unable to work at undesirable times and probably doesn't result in other restrictions, unless the work is dangerous in some way or she has a medical problem with the pregnancy.  Most people I know who are good work performers feel bad for asking for accomodations, even when needed.  I missed only one day of work for pulmonary embolisms, because I was actually admitted to the hospital.  And I felt bad about missing 2.5-3 hour time periods sometimes to go have lung tests or blood tests or cancer tests, etc.  My boss kept telling me not to worry about it, but I felt bad that there was extra work for others when I wasn't able to be there.

A healthy pregnant woman, particularly one so early in a pregnancy, is able to do pretty much all activities.  I imagine that everyone is tired in shift work.  Perhaps an accomodation might be napping during the "lunch hour" or an extra 15 min to have time for a nap (assuming there are two people in the shift and it doesn't put a lot of extra pressure on the other person).  However, I know I did that sometimes when I was recovering and I didn't ask for extra time.  I would just go to a quiet room during lunch and set my phone and sleep for 30-40 min, go back to work, and then go to bed early when I got home.

Honestly, it sounds like an excuse.

KateM's picture
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I think your HR department has made the wrong call.  She can make a personal request for a shift change, and you can handle it like a personal request, e.g. see if someone is willing to flip shifts with her.  Or she can make it a medical request, and you can follow your policies for accommodating medical requests/ADA/disabilities, etc.  If she's activated the "medical" arm of the dichotomy, then you're obligated to follow that one, I think.

Be careful of assuming that "pregnancy is easy, since everyone does it."  A woman may look/seem young and healthy, but there may be other underlying factors that you don't know about.  For example, let's say Mrs. Jones is finally happily pregnant after 15 years of infertility and $20,000 rounds of in vitro.  You better believe she's going to ask for every possible accommodation to protect the baby.    But expecting Mrs. Jones to spill her whole infertility story is at best an overshare, at worst none of your business.  Let her physician tell you she needs light duty/fewer shifts/longer breaks/whatever.  With professional women delaying childbearing longer, with the reduced fertility that entails, this is becoming an issue more frequently, not less often.   So "pregnancy" can be a completely TRUE reason, while being an INCOMPLETE reason.

And there are plenty of women who are absolutely miserably disabled due to complications from their pregnancies.  (Think Kate Middleton.)  Sometimes we lack compassion because in our culture, we tend to see pregnancies as elective.  That is, you would NEVER think "You wanted to be diabetic with end-stage renal failure, so deal with it," but some might think, "She wanted this baby, so she needs to suck it up in: re: the morning sickness/puffy feet/sleepless nights."   And episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis don't produce a lovely new human being at the end of them.

I had very different pregnancies with each of my three sons.  The first one was so easy -- I did 36 hour shifts until the month before he was born, and worked up until the day he was born.  I remember the hospital nurses laughing at me because my pregnant abdomen was so huge at the end, it got in the way of doing procedures.   But with the last pregnancy, I had to go on a reduced schedule nearly immediately and had to quit seeing patients at 32 weeks because I had to time 8 different medication doses a day, and I couldn't do those on time and keep to a work schedule. 

In my experience, I'm not worried about overplaying the pregnancy card unless that same individual has overplayed the leave card before.  The kind of delicate orchid who needs to work 10-2 with a 4 hour lunch because she's pregnant will have previously petitioned you for 2 weeks of bereavement leave because her neighbor's cat died and is constantly tardy because of personal drama.





timrutter's picture

Great advice Kate and might I add, that last paragraph is absolute gold. It applies to a multitude of situations