Question: Hi, Alan, I’m so happy to find your blog. Finally there’s a resource available to the staff, who are usually in a disadvantaged situation, not like the management, who has the whole of corporate resources (HR, Legal, etc.) siding with them.

I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant now. I had an annual performance review with my boss last Friday. I got a “Fully Meets Expectations; Sometimes Exceeds,” but I was also told at the same time that I did not deserve that rating. So I was put on a Performance Improvement Plan, or PIP for short, at the same time.

Thanks to your Model Letter Library, I started drafting my “First Response to a PIP.” However, frankly speaking, all of these accusations and PIP thoughts have taken an unbearable toll on me, my health and my fetus. Over the weekend, my weight dropped 5 pounds! Can you believe that a woman in her third trimester loses weight?

I don’t know if it’s a wise thing to push back, considering this stress. Someone has suggested that I come up with a “Counter PIP” with objective, achievable goals. But I still don’t want to go through this set of weekly reviews in my last 8 weeks of pregnancy. What kind of evidence should I start collecting?

Best, Jodie
Rockville, Maryland 

Answer: Jodie, first of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! I’m sure many people join me in prayers for your safe and healthy delivery. Here are my thoughts: 

1. Above everything else – and I mean everything else – you must think first of your health and your baby’s health. Nothing comes even close. Let that be your one and only guide in what you do, when you do it, and how you do it. Nothing is as important, or even nearly as important as that one goal. Nothing can be permitted to put your and your baby’s health in jeopardy. And we all know: excessive stress can be quite, quite harmful to health.

2. Your performance going from “Meets/Exceeds Expectations” to “PIP” in one week is 100% illogical, and looks very much like Pure Pregnancy Discrimination to me. Think about it: how can someone be an extremely good performer and an extremely poor performer at the same time? When we see such illogical things happening, especially in Performance Reviews and Performance Improvement Plans, experience and common sense teach us that there is almost always another “real reason” for what is happening, and the PIP is nothing but an integral part of a fraud and attempted cover up of that real reason. In the law, a “false reason” is called “pretext,” and is, in itself, proof of a “wrong reason.”

3. My guess: your boss is hoping you’ll quit your job, so he can avoid keeping your job open for you during your maternity leave. It would seem to me quite likely that your boss – like many bosses in this situation – is getting nervous about doing without your services during your upcoming maternity leave. At this time, he may be starting to wonder if you will come back after maternity leave, and wonder, too, whether your having a little baby on your mind after you return to work will distract you if you do come back after maternity leave. THAT ANXIETY IS HIS PROBLEM, NOT YOURS, and don’t let it become yours, if you can. Your PIP seems to be interwoven with your pregnancy and impending maternity leave, in my experience, and from the information you have provided. In fact, your PIP seems to me to be evidence of your boss’s maternity-related concerns, and what would therefore be pregnancy discrimination.   

4. Can a friend, life partner, husband, or sibling help you carry the “stress-load?” No matter what stressful situation you face, having a helping hand carry some of the “stress-load” cannot hurt. Consider this possible way of standing up and pushing back at the PIP, without endangering your health and your baby’s health. Sure, no one can go to weekly update meetings for you, but someone can help you in drafting, sending and responding to emails or letters, and in “pushing back against your PIP, and in possibly filing discrimination complaints to HR, the CEO, the Board of Directors, or your state or federal Employment Rights Agency. (See my point 6, below.)  

5. Consider filing for a FMLA Leave of Absence. You likely qualify to take time off without pay in order to attend to your health and the health of your baby under the federal FMLA law. We have lots of info about FMLA on our blogsite.

We also offer a Model Letter entitled “Memo Requesting FMLA Info, Procedure, Forms” on our Model Letter section. To obtain a copy, just [click here.]

If you do request your employer’s FMLA info, procedures and forms, make sure you do it by email, and take home a copy of that email. Also, make sure your immediate boss knows of it, so that he may be held personally accountable for future acts of discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

6. Consider, too, filing a Complaint of (i) Pregnancy Discrimination, and (ii) Fraudulent PIP as proof of that Discrimination with HR, or appropriate federal, state or local Employment Rights Agencies. It seems to me that you have a valid case of pregnancy discrimination. While filing an official complaint of discrimination may seem “confrontational,” or “adversarial,” remember that your first concern is your baby, not your boss’s feelings.   

We offer a Model Memo to assist you in filing a Complaint of Discrimination with HR. To obtain a copy [click here.]

7. Yes, it may be a good idea to start collecting “evidence.” As to “gathering evidence,” the PIP, itself, is the strongest piece of evidence you might need. You might print out and take home copies of (i) your positive performance review, (ii) emails in which you have been praised for your work, and (iii) emails which show that your employer, in general, and your boss, in particular, are aware of your pregnancy and plans to take maternity leave. You might also ask around to find out if other female employees at your workplace have faced similar treatment when they became pregnant.

As to the idea of a “Counter PIP,” I have never seen that work. While it might, I would rather doubt it and, besides, why would it be needed if your Performance Review was positive?

Jodie, I hope this Answer, in itself, serves to reduce a bit of your stress by giving you a “plan of action” or possible steps to take to move forward with a healthy mind and body (or two of each, in your case!) Very best of luck in your final weeks before delivery, and in the delivery itself. You and your baby are now in my daily prayers. 

Best times ten,
Al Sklover

P.S.: You’ll soon need Baby Announcements!! 

Help Yourself With
These Unique PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT PLAN (PIP) Materials

PIP 1: Model Response to Receiving a PIP
PIP 2: Model Second Response if Your First Response Does Not Work
PIP 3: 152- Point Step-by-Step Guide and Checklist for a PIP
PIP 4: 3 Memos Seeking Feedback of Clients, Customers, Colleagues for Use in PIP Pushback
PIP 5: Final Memo to Delay PIP Conclusion to Continue Job Search
PIP 6: After Successful PIP Pushback, Suggesting Positive Next Steps

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