Pregnant and Put on a PIP at Work
July 25, 2018 6:42 PM   Subscribe

I've been put on a PIP at work and am not certain how to proceed. Normally I'd look for another job, but I'm five months into my pregnancy and it's visible. This PIP is transparently designed to push me out since it has no timeline and I wasn't given any goals to meet. What I do?

Apologies in advance for the length. This has been an issue for a full year and I've been driven so crazy about it I no longer know what's relevant.

I work as the sole web developer on a digital team in e-commerce with a group of graphic designers, and have accidentally become the de facto project manager since we're so disorganized and I'm the person who has to upload everything to the website. We don't have a real project manager, though we've been begging for one for years. We work on really, really tight timelines. This means that whenever a graphic designer fails to complete a job correctly or on time and I need the correct content for our site, I have to beg them for it. If I go to our shared supervisor, the conflict-averse Senior Art Director, she usually just mildly says, "Oh, so-and-so didn't make that? She was supposed to have made it." The designers are very argumentative and usually have a lot of excuses about why the work wasn't done, so it's tough for me to get my job completed each day. Since they're so slow, I've often had to do work for them because our QA team always leaves on time, and it's my job to get things to them by 5pm.

I've been with the company for a bit and have gotten excellent reviews, raises, bonuses, and travel opportunities based on my work. Up until about a year ago, I was friendly with everyone on my team, and frequently went for drinks with them. I'm also the oldest on my team, so was the person everyone turned to for personal advice, etc. I thought my job was fairly secure, and I seemed to be well-liked. My supervisor liked me because I took so much weight off of her shoulders but she was personally much closer to all of the other team members, who are all young and single like she is.

About a year ago, I received more responsibility and so had a serious conversation with my boss about the graphic designers' continued failure to complete their work on time and how I would appreciate some help project managing their work (which was really her responsibility, not mine, though I didn't really highlight this because I know she gets easily defensive) so I could have more time to execute my actual responsibilities. I also pointed out that I usually had to fix their messy work in Photoshop (misspellings, weird filters, incorrect products, colors smeared everywhere) so that it could be ready to go online, something I'd asked my boss to check on before. None of this was my job since I'm a developer, but took up to 40% of my day, and I had to do it because it would otherwise never be done. They weren't small mistakes. Once one of them put a beach upside-down. Like, it was crazy shit. My boss reviews every single asset before it goes on the site, so I was kind of like, "Hey, could you maybe just check for this list of things I see a lot and have to fix a bunch? I can't really ask the designers to do it because they take so long." My boss was reluctant to "confront" anyone and said the solution was for me to just go to each graphic designer any time they made a mistake and to point it out. I said something like, "Look, I'm not their boss, I'm not comfortable with this since I'm on the same level on the hierarchy with each of them, and I'm coming to you confidentially about what could be improved. They make so many mistakes that I would honestly have to live at their desks to point each one out. Can we make a blanket statement?" She said, no, I could take care of it. I asked her to tell the team she'd given me this extra responsibility of bringing their mistakes to them, and she said it would be fine. She didn't bother telling them this new direction was coming from her.

As I expected, the designers revolted when the developer started coming to them every day to say, "Hi! I was wondering if you could just make sure this is centered? This isn't the right product. You misspelled 'makeup' in a few places. Could you get this all fixed up? Thank you!" They'd never actually been told they were making mistakes before in this job, and are all quite young, so maybe had never been told they'd made a mistake at work ever? One started crying when I asked her to center something and kept saying, "But it's like you're trying to make me feel bad" and "I never said I was perfect."

This didn't improve the problem. As a group, the designers started giving me the silent treatment. Having been friendly with them, I knew that they had occasionally planned to get someone fired when they disliked them by sabotaging their work and not turning in items they'd requested. (Obviously I always asked them not to do this as it was wildly unprofessional but since I was the old stick-in-the-mud, no one ever listened.) I'd once warned my boss the younger designers hatched plots to sabotage people over drinks and it was silly but she should know about it, and she told me that didn't sound like something this group of women would do. She was very doubtful when I suggested they might be starting to do it to me.

Things got worse. When I had to ask a designer for something urgent several times in one day, suspecting she was trying to give it to me as late as possible, she asked me to go into a private room with her where she aggressively, scarily yelled at me for "irritating" her all day. I documented it for my boss, who told me it was a "she-said she-said" situation; the designer had denied it happened. Whenever I went into the kitchen or bathroom, other employees would tell me my team was loudly and publicly trashing me. I brought this to my boss as well; she said again that the designers denied it and that she couldn't believe the other employees who had informed me because they were my "friends" and "on my side." I felt like I was going crazy.

I received yet more responsibilities. I told my boss that in order to complete my newest responsibilities, what I really needed from her was to be given the benefit of the doubt on this designer issue. She repeatedly said she didn't want to think about the issue because it was giving her "anxiety." Finally, one day when we really needed an important promotion, the designer was ignoring me to text on her phone, and my supervisor was on vacation, I went to my boss's supervisor, our director, and asked her how I should resolve it because the promotion would possibly not get done. This resulted in the designer being removed from her preferred jobs for a week and being given a light lecture in a group setting. This very clearly incensed the group, and they talked about it behind my back endlessly.

From there, the problems got even worse. The director didn't have time to sort things out and kind of forgot about it, but the damage had been done. Every day I was missing huge chunks of the designers' work, having to reorganize and juggle large projects for other teams just because I wasn't getting anything I needed on time. I was more and more stressed out to the point where I was visibly losing my mind every day no matter how hard I tried to remain even-keeled. Six weeks ago I wound up breaking down in tears one day, to my everlasting regret.

I was pulled aside, and I revealed to my supervisor that I'm pregnant and having trouble managing my responsibilities and having unnecessary struggles with the designers everyday while also being hormonal.

A couple of weeks after that, I was pulled into an HR meeting and told that I was being put on a PIP for handling stress poorly in front of others and because all of the designers had gathered and told HR I had a "vendetta" against them. Guys, I feel like I was fucking railroaded into this thing. There are no goals I need to meet for this PIP other than to "not let people know how stressed out [I'm] feeling" and no timeline on it. I feel like this is in retaliation for ruining the cohesion of the team. Like, yes, we were all friendly before, but I was also doing a lot of everyone's work, which was not sustainable as my role expanded. I also feel like getting pregnant was REALLY BAD. I have no back-up at work except for my supervisor, and she hates when I take even a week off (which is rare) because she has to take on my share. Having to take on eight weeks of my work is her nightmare. Other employees on the larger digital team, including very senior ones, think what's being done to me is crazy, but no one's asking them for their opinions. My supervisor has a lot of credibility and power, so this is really her show.

I don't really know what to do. I'm visibly pregnant and can't imagine I'd get a new job; even if I did and some company wanted to hire me and then let me disappear for maternity leave, most companies don't grant maternity leave to newer employees. A PIP is almost always the first step to firing an employee, and this one doesn't even have any criteria for me to meet or an end date, so this seems like a very obvious way to fire me. The director who'd been on my side likes me, but really loves my supervisor (she said I could search for one million years and never find a better one, which I doubt is true; I've been working for years and had better several times) and said she was deferring to her on this, so I don't have that avenue. I don't know if I can consult an employment lawyer because I can't tell if I've been gaslighted into thinking maybe everything really is "she-said she-said" and that nothing counts unless I have an actual recording or if this situation has really been handled as poorly as I think.

I guess my questions are:

1. Should I contact a lawyer?
2. Did I let petty bullshit, like trash talking, bother me at work too much so it's my fault?
3. What do I do if I'm fired and pregnant? How does one make money?

I know this is quite long and apologize! If you've somehow read to the end, thank you. Any advice anyone might have, even if it's to tell me I'm a jackass who should have minded her own business at work and that I was kind of blind to the fact that fixing others' mistakes sort of was my role and I should be grateful for being paid to do it, is so welcome.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column to Work & Money (35 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
You don't say where you live/work, but since you spelled "center" the American way, I'm going to assume you're American. Where in the country you live could be important, though.

Do you have a paper/digital trail of any kind? Are there emails between you and the designers, or were the discussions all in-person, with no documentation? If you can't prove what you're saying, I'm not sure getting a lawyer is going to help that much.

It sounds like you've endured more at your job than most people would have in your position, myself included (I'm also a developer). If what you say is true, you're not overreacting at all, and you deserve better. Are you noticeably pregnant yet? If not, you might be able to get a new job; I know that technically there isn't supposed to be employment discrimination based on pregnancy, but I know that often isn't reality.

So basically, my answers are:

1. Yes, contact a lawyer. You may not have a case; but it's possible that even if you don't, threatening a little might get them to at least give you some good severance pay.

2. No, based on what you said. You were treated badly, and you should have been pissed about it.

3. One finds another job, of course. Fortunately, lots of development work can be done remotely, and web development in particular is often done freelance.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:25 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yes, contact a lawyer, and gather your evidence that you were not told that you had performance problems before you revealed that you were pregnant. If/when you are fired while pregnant, you will need the lawyer, and if you are railroaded out or made to quit (constructive dismissal) you will need that lawyer to help you get your job reinstated so you can keep your FMLA and benefits through your maternity leave.
posted by juniperesque at 7:26 PM on July 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Response by poster: Baby's dad is around but we could not get by on his salary.
I imagine the PIP would be a way to get around protective laws.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 7:26 PM on July 25, 2018


You are in a toxic work environment and NONE OF IT is your fault. It is not your job to ensure the designers do theirs properly. Your supervisor is relying on you as a scapegoat because she doesn't want to be the bad guy with them. Document everything because you may be protected from discrimination as a pregnant woman. The PIP's vagueness "may not show how stressed you are", really? might even help you here.

(This is petty, but can you start uploading the mistake-riddled images to the website as is? If anyone asks just shrug and say that those are the images you were received. Let things slide. It is not your responsibility to be loyal to the company and ensure everything runs smoothly anymore. They have already proven that they are not loyal to you.)
posted by storytam at 7:28 PM on July 25, 2018 [51 favorites]


Being pregnant is a lot of work. That's the main priority now - the pregnancy and you - and will be a part of your life long after this sucky job.

Here's one possibility while you contact a lawyer and figure out other options:
This change all happens in your mind. This seems do-able, keep calm at work, it is healthier for you and for the baby. You can do it. It will be hard. Figure out your story, they just asked you to not act out stress. You can do it. Talk with your supervisor, ask their thoughts on current work best strategies, thank them. After a couple weeks, check in with HR on the timeline of your PIP and ask that it be updated, that your attitude is all about the team. You are also probably starting to feel a little better in this middle part of the pregnancy. Phone it in to your job, do what needs to be done with exemplary attitude. Fix the errors, do not confront anyone but be damn sure to Document Everything ("here's my status report for project #1000000, completed my tasks as summarized below, did not receive image#abc as of 5 PM, so is waiting to close the loop, I'll wrap it up as soon as I receive the image#abc). Fix the stuff that needs to be fixed but document it as completely as possible "herein find completed project - I made a few changes on pages 7, 9, 11 and 15 mostly minor editing such as centering and typos but also fixed the wobblygook on pages 17-21 so it should be ready for final review. See attached version original and version current". Document, document, document.

Take care of self ideas, take it or leave it:
Download the Headspace app and meditate for 5 minutes every day even if it is in the bathroom at work, this will be good for you and good for the baby. Maybe other people have other good suggestions on feeling peaceful through your pregnancy. I know I always felt like I was gritting my teeth and had to work really hard to feel relaxed but somewhere in the middle I felt great, had fantastic dreams, and laughed so hard at medium funny jokes.
Write down some important mantras, keep a note on your phone home page, whatever is motivational for you.
I like 4,7,8 breathing - breathe in four count, hold 7 count, out 8 count - 4 or 8 times.
Briefly close eyes and imagine your energy is shooting out in all directions, breathe in deeply to reorganize and center your energy firmly within your body lending some of it directly to your baby bump. You will stand up straighter and have a more level look to your gaze.

It may not be as hard to switch jobs with a baby at home but I agree it may be difficult to job search while pregnant. There is, if you have the energy, no harm in putting out feelers on a new job though and it may make you feel better to feel like there are options.

I'm sorry, this is such bad timing and stressful.
posted by RoadScholar at 7:34 PM on July 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


Other employees on the larger digital team, including very senior ones, think what's being done to me is crazy, but no one's asking them for their opinions.

Can any of these folks help you find another job in the same company? Before you say no, do an experiment. Go out for coffee with them and ask for their advice about what you might do next. Roles within the same company, other jobs out there for someone with your experience - someone may have a contact for you. When I was pregnant I was stressed out and not at my most creative. Other people, removed from the situation a bit, might be able to come up with creative solutions. You deserve better than this, and personally I would LOVE to see you make a lateral move within the company and then watch your former supervisor flail around as she tries to do your job and sees what it's really like.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:38 PM on July 25, 2018 [21 favorites]


Yeesh, sounds like a terrible situation and I'm sorry you have to deal with this especially while pregnant.
1. Contacting a lawyer may be a good idea, although see my answer for number 3.
2. No. This sounds like a terribly toxic work environment, and it's preventing you from doing what you're paid to do as well as taking a large toll on your wellbeing.
3. Although it sounds like you want to stick out this job, at least for the short term, I would suggest you start looking for other employment. Not wanting to get fired is understandable given the pregnancy, but this doesn't sound like a situation that will drastically improve. Do what you can to salvage things short term and finish your pregnancy, and keep looking for other opportunities so you can get out when possible.
posted by DTMFA at 7:39 PM on July 25, 2018


  1. You should contact a lawyer.
  2. You have been treated unprofessionally and unreasonably, to the extent that you should ask the lawyer you contact about constructive dismissal.
  3. Your lawyer can advise you on unemployment benefits given your local regulatory environment.

posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:45 PM on July 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


It seems like you may have gotten some support from your boss's supervisor, the one who demanded some accountability and removed a designer from preferred jobs (aka one who actually knows how to manage people). How is your relationship with that person? Do you think they could back you up, believe you, and do some more actual management to correct all these issues?

If you think they were only interested in helping you out that one time because of your boss's vacation + looming deadline, then this may not be an available course of action. But if you think they are a reasonable sort, would believe/support you, and has the power/clout to remove the PIP then you could consider turning to them.

I think contacting a lawyer for 1hr free consult could be beneficial, at least to lay out your options. Actually even if you pay the lawyer a couple hundred $ (if you can afford it) and the end result is you scare them into at least letting you access your mat leave benefits, this could be very much worth it as it gives you the peace of mind for now, and a timeframe by which you need to have a new job lined up (whenever your leave ends).
posted by tinydancer at 7:47 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: To all those who have commented so far, thank you all so much.

I'm so sorry to threadsit and will not do it after this, but in reading other PIP issues on AskMe, I saw this comment. How do I make sure, if I speak to HR or a lawyer, that I am not the person being admonished in this comment? This is the main fear keeping me from speaking to a lawyer for a consultation.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 7:51 PM on July 25, 2018


Yoko Ono's Advice Column: " How do I make sure, if I speak to HR or a lawyer, that I am not the person being admonished in this comment?"

I know we're not supposed to argue with other commenters, but that comment is bad advice and you should ignore it. View the comment immediately below it for an example of a viewpoint that disagrees with the OP's but without slinging gendered insults at her.
posted by capricorn at 7:54 PM on July 25, 2018 [39 favorites]


Caveat that you should consult a lawyer first of all. The following is just my very much not lawyerly instincts.

It's not clear how much of a paper trail you have so far - from your description it sounds like most of these interactions have been verbal. If so I'd start documenting everything and having all these conversations - with both designers and supervisors - over email. (E.g. instead of personally telling a designer to fix an asset, reply in email to the work they've submitted with the issues they need to fix, attaching the faulty assets when necessary so that there's a complete record of the problem.)

Cover your ass: write to your supervisors/HR that you are eager to do your best but the PIP has no actionable details or metrics. Request (or propose) actionable metrics and have them sign off on them. Remind them in writing of your exemplary record. Say in writing that an ongoing issue, which you have brought up as a consistent concern, has been who is ultimately responsible for making sure the designers' work is usable. Write that you currently spend x hours a day fixing such and such: under your PIP is this expected to continue? If the amount of work you are doing is unsustainable, lay that out with concrete numbers. (And from now on document each day how much time you spend find various tasks.) Write that an ongoing source of friction has been you requiring designers to make changes on schedule without having clear authority to do so. Ask them to spell out how they wish this friction to be resolved going forward. Ask what regular reports they would like you to make.

When systemic problems with designers come up, write supervisors/HR and say the PIP does not specify how they would like you to handle such situations, please specify desired response to these situations so that you may be sure of complying with the PIP. If the results of their suggestions are not good, report the results.

Tl;dr - document a lot.

Definitely talk with the employment lawyer about when 'reacting poorly to stress' is cause for reprimand - given that you were just crying, not attacking other employees or otherwise impeding anyone's work, that sounds kind of egregious, entirely side from protections regarding pregnancy and mental health.
posted by trig at 8:04 PM on July 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


Response by poster: Okay, so sorry, one more answer. My boss complained that I do everything by email (obviously you all know I'm doing it because I'm trying to cover my ass) when I should just go to someone's desk and talk about it. I've literally been asked to keep everything out of email. So I'm being managed out of documenting.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 8:12 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Go talk to them and then write a follow up email that happens to also summarize what you talked about.
posted by sacchan at 8:18 PM on July 25, 2018 [41 favorites]


You need to start letting people fail and deadlines get passed. EVERY SINGLE TIME you get a substandard or error ridden work send it back in an email that cc's your boss and request it be fixed with a reminder of the original deadline and if it will be missed the consequences (ie this project will not go live, we will miss a deliverable). Don't forward anything until you get workable copy. Why are you fixing these people's copy??? That is insane, stop now!

ONLY communicate in writing, if the designer shows up crying and whining pick up the phone and call your boss and say "Debbie is here and I need your help resolving this" then follow up with an email "Debbie, you came into my office and cried and said it felt like I was picking on you but my only communication on this has been my email of 3:34 pm today detailing the errors that need to be fixed. If this is a problem or you have personal reasons for not being able to complete it please take it up with Boss who can reassign it as I need error free copy by 4pm today or the project will not move forward on deadline".

Every time they fail to complete a task cc another level up: boss's boss, HR lady. At the end of two weeks schedule a meeting with HR and the Boss's Boss (but not boss), lay out all the emails ans say "This is what I've been dealing with for 2 years. I've saved countless projects from failure. I've done my best to make boss be boss like and she refuses. I did not receive a PIP until I told Boss I was pregnant. Wanna rip it up now or wait and see the rest of the documentation I have?" Ideally they cut you a check and you walk away an boss has a nervous breakdown having to do your job but at the very least they should get ordered to leave you alone.

As to what you can change about your own behavior: stop trying to save everyone. It is not your job. If I lost a good employee that was making projects happen because of a bunch of under-performers I'd be pissed but if I found out someone had secretly been making up the work of under-performers for years because of some kind of mis-guided belief that was overall a helpful thing to do I'd also be kinda pissed. That's not your job and it makes my job much harder when people do that. If someone is a fuck up I want to know, I don't want people covering for them. You have assigned tasks and it's not your job to do other people's work. Let them sink or swim on their own. Take care of yourself.
posted by fshgrl at 8:19 PM on July 25, 2018 [46 favorites]


Hey, the person who commented on that other question gave a jerk answer and that is 100% not useful (to the OP or to you), don't even worry about that. It was the most uncharitable reading of that question they could have done and you will not come across like that person at all. That person doesn't even come across like that, it was seriously just a shitty drive-by comment that probably would have been deleted by a mod if it had been flagged.

First, I am so sorry this is happening to you. This is a toxic job and it is making you start to see things from a toxic perspective. One day years from now you will be able to look back and realize that this job has warped your sense of normalcy. The way you are describing it is clear-headed, but what you are describing is a batshit crazy environment and you are trying to make sense of it logically but here's the thing: you can't make sense of it because the people you work with are not normal and not okay. You deserve to have a manager who does their job. You deserve to have a team who does their job too and even if they hated you personally they would be dead wrong to let that impact their own work.

This is to say that I think you need to get away from this job regardless of what happens with the PIP. I am so sorry. It is possible to job search while pregnant and you sound like an absolutely outstanding candidate. Do you read Ask a Manager? There are a few links here about job searching while pregnant that will be useful. She also has a lot to say about toxic job culture and here's also a post on when your manager won't manage. And one more: How do you survive with a job?

Seriously, the way that you are going above and beyond at your job is incredible. I am actually a graphic designer and I've worked with web developers who didn't have the skills that you do to think logically about the content they are putting out there. (e.g., not questioning really obvious mistakes that a designer or copywriter may have given them, having "not my job" as a mantra because they just don't care.) That is such an awesome skill to have and it is rare. Talk about these skills in interviews and in cover letters! That you don't just do your job, you're also aware of the overall strategy behind what you're doing and work hard to support the whole team.

I would absolutely follow RoadScholar's advice on how to get through this PIP with minimal distress. There is no shame in doing what you have to do to keep your job if you can't find another one before the baby comes. And I second what the recommendation about meditating; it's one of those things that people always recommend so it loses meaning to get another recommendation, but, well, it helps a lot. I think you also need to take every chance you have to gain perspective to help you see past how this job has warped your sense of normalcy. Do you by any chance have an employee assistance program that could get you into short term counseling? I did that when I was in a bad, bad job that I couldn't see past. It was just good to get it off my chest. Granted the person I saw was terrible (I think the counselors who are referred to by workplace EAPs are, uh, not great) but saying it out loud helped me realize what a terrible environment I was in.

Again, you are clearly a great worker and it's understandable how hurt you are by this situation, but the way you're framing this is with a lot of worry that it's all your fault and that's not at all the case. It's okay to be emotional at work on rare occasions. It's okay to be a person, a pregnant hormonal person and cry when you're under a lot of stress! Don't be so hard on yourself or convince yourself this one "mistake" (being emotional) justifies what's happening to you. In a healthy workplace you would not be in trouble for that. Just keep repeating to yourself that you do not work for or with normal people. Stop trying to make sense of them and just focus on getting the fuck out and keeping the baby safe.

Lastly, I don't have any specific knowledge of lawyering up but you should absolutely explore that path. The fact that you are being asked not to document things is a pretty clear sign they realize they're on shaky legal ground.

Please keep us updated. We are all pulling for you. Seriously, I hope some mefite can give you some job leads or something. You deserve so much better.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:20 PM on July 25, 2018 [17 favorites]


Go talk to them and then write a follow up email that happens to also summarize what you talked about.

Seconding this. The email could even take a form like:

"Just following up on our conversation earlier today about [thing]. To make sure we're on the same page, I've summarized my understanding below; if anything is missing or incorrect, please let me know ASAP so we can stay on track."

The person might come to you with corrections, which you'll capture and send out a revision of the email. The person might reply to you with corrections that you may or may not agree with, then the ball's in your court to continue the process. Either of these is fine.

The person might also run to your boss and complain, in which case you show the email in question (which you've had friends in the office sanity-check for tone before you send them, by the way) and ask with the kindest face ever: "did they take issue with the content of the email, the tone of the email, or the fact that the email existed at all?" How that conversation goes will tell you a ton about what's really going on:

"it was the content of the email" -- "well, it's good I wrote it down so we can clear that up. why do you think they didn't feel comfortable letting me know, since I asked for feedback on anything missing or incorrect?"

"it was the tone of the email" -- "that's disappointing to hear, since I took the time to have other folks in the office review it in advance to prevent that very thing. do you have specific tone changes you'd recommend to help me communicate with this person more effectively?"

"it was that you wrote the email in the first place" -- "writing these things down helps me confirm I have the correct understanding after face-to-face conversations, which I think is an important tool to help me do better while I'm on this PIP. if there wasn't anything wrong with the content and tone, why do you think [person] had a problem with the email?"

The truth is, though, to hear you describe it you're on your way out no matter what...and over time that will be a good thing, even if you suffer in the short term. Good luck.
posted by davejay at 8:39 PM on July 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


You might also want to bcc an outside email address of your own with these harassment documentation emails to keep records of everything you're documenting for yourself because your coworkers sound like such enormous assholes that I would not put it past them to interfere with your own work area/computer/phone.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:30 PM on July 25, 2018 [18 favorites]


I was pulled aside, and I revealed to my supervisor that I'm pregnant and having trouble managing my responsibilities and having unnecessary struggles with the designers everyday while also being hormonal.

A couple of weeks after that, I was pulled into an HR meeting and told that I was being put on a PIP for handling stress poorly in front of others and because all of the designers had gathered and told HR I had a "vendetta" against them. Guys, I feel like I was fucking railroaded into this thing. There are no goals I need to meet for this PIP other than to "not let people know how stressed out [I'm] feeling" and no timeline on it.
.....
I don't know if I can consult an employment lawyer because I can't tell if I've been gaslighted into thinking maybe everything really is "she-said she-said" and that nothing counts unless I have an actual recording or if this situation has really been handled as poorly as I think.


I'm not a lawyer, but this just looks they have really fucked up. Soon after you told them you were pregnant you got a PIP saying stop being so emotional? It's like a high school level illustration for "it is still discriminating based on pregnancy even if you don't *say* pregnancy". Talk to an employment lawyer.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:16 PM on July 25, 2018 [35 favorites]


When I started my first job as an art director, I had a jealous Mac designer sabotage my work by turning graphs in annual reports upside down, putting images in backwards etc, and then bypassing my approval on the final job so it looked like this was work I had signed off on.

Once I was aware of what was going on, I went to one of the partners in the agency - and his boss. Instead of framing it like ‘me vs the saboteur’ please fix my interpersonal problem, I gave it to them straight. I told this man he was about to lose the company’s biggest client. Because if any of this work got past me and printed without anyone picking up the errors, the agency would be fired for incompetence. All because someone had a gripe.

Well. All of a sudden the boss was listening. The Mac designer was hauled in front of him and absolutely reamed out. He tried denying it but we had piles of evidence (turns out he was jealous I got the job he applied for). He was told if he so much as looked at me the wrong way, one single negative word from me would have his job. I held his livelihood in my hands from that point on and we never had another issue.
posted by Jubey at 10:28 PM on July 25, 2018 [10 favorites]


The PIP is the final step before being fired. You have legitimate reason to believe that this is discrimination. Not only document everything, but PRINT OUT ALL THE EMAILS AND BRING THEM HOME WITH YOU NOW. Call a lawyer. Take notes on everything with dates, times and who was present.

Sorry this sucks. Protect yourself and your family.
posted by Toddles at 11:09 PM on July 25, 2018 [21 favorites]


I'd be seriously tempted to make a collection of a bunch of the incorrect art work. Not to necessarily show it to anyone right now, but just to have. In case.

The quantity of errors might help make your case later, if, indeed, they were supposed to be correct. However, it would more be for your own comfort and to reassure yourself that you weren't crazy.
posted by amtho at 11:23 PM on July 25, 2018 [12 favorites]


Can you survive on unemployment insurance in your state? Being fired for poor performance doesn’t typically make you ineligible for it. This is not in lieu of getting an attorney, it’s just something to think about to hopefully calm your (justified) nerves a bit.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:13 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I would definitely consult an employment lawyer - it's worth the money both because if you are terminated your lawyer can negotiate a settlement, but also because then you will have someone in your corner during a really stressful time...not to talk to you (that's expensive) but just as a tool in your toolkit.

Definitely document everything, and the idea of sending daily or weekly updates is a good one. Detail the work you've done including corrections, what you're waiting for, what you sent back, and anything else relevant to "what we got accomplished this week and how." Email copies to yourself and your lawyer.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:25 AM on July 26, 2018


Document the shit out of this, including getting emails together as far back as you can. If you keep timeslips that say what you were doing on what projects, get those. Write down everything you can about every conversation you've had here, with your boss when you tried to report, with the team that's been sabotaging you, and with the coworkers who have advised you that the designers are trash-talking you.

Take this all to a lawyer and do what they say.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:00 AM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Can't comment in practical terms, but just want to say that the pregnancy is awesome, not really bad, and the job is... just a job. About a billion times less important than you and your pregnancy. A little perspective, because you probably feel like the job's this big looming Thing right now.

You're not working in the third sector, are you?

> So I'm being managed out of documenting.

Of course, if she won't put that request in writing...

You sound very self-motivated. Ever considered freelancing?
posted by Leon at 6:28 AM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Is your employer large enough to be covered under FMLA? Do you have short term disability insurance?

There is always the possibility that you'd need to leave work for the duration of your pregnancy. Especially if you have a sympathetic doctor.
posted by MadMadam at 7:35 AM on July 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


Lots of good advice above. Your situation sucks; Please do not make it worse by following your manager’s advice to stop doing everything by email. Keep doing everything by email or confirm the agreement by email or email yourself, as suggested above but it’s way more effective if you also copy other people even if it’s not your manager you are copying but it is your coworkers. Get names and personal phone numbers now of any one at work you shared details with about your situation with the designers and your supervisor. And by all means copy the before and after files of mistakes you fixed, etc. The money thing sounds hard; if you can freelance, consider it. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:38 AM on July 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


There is always the possibility that you'd need to leave work for the duration of your pregnancy. Especially if you have a sympathetic doctor.

Take FMLA/disability leave when it's medically necessary, period (this could include if your mental health is suffering to a disabling degree or medically affecting your pregnancy). There is recent case law related to taking FMLA (early, in this case) to avoid termination. The court found in favor of an employer.
posted by Pax at 8:34 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


This situation reeks, and (as a lawyer, not your lawyer, but one who wants to assure you that no right-minded employee-side plaintiff's attorney is going to take this less than seriously) is ample grounds for consult with a lawyer.

Aside from that, I wanted to note that you sound like a great employee and person, and I hate to see you put so much....validation and authority on sources that haven't earned it, if that makes sense? Like, some of the worries you list in your post and comments:

-That getting pregnant might have been "REALLY BAD" because...your awful supervisor already complains when you take time off to which you are entitled as a human, non-robot employee;
-That you don't know whether you can consult with a lawyer, who you would be hiring to represent your interests, because s/he might view this as "she said-she said" and "nothing counts" based on your word -- even though, obviously, you know what is happening to you;
-That if you hire a lawyer or raise concerns about discrimination, you might run afoul of a standard set by an AskMe commenter who literally had the gall to describe a pregnant person raising concerns about her workplace as "coming across as a bossy woman," which would personally have stopped me from reading or listening to anything else that person said, pretty much ever;
-That you can no longer document what is happening in emails because...the management that is, at best, failing to address major problems documented in them and impliedly threatening your job over same via the PIP, says to stop creating a written record, and apparently you were planning to abide;
-That your PIP will give your employer "a way around" protective laws. If you had genuine performance problems, yes, being pregnant is not impenetrable armor preventing discipline or firing, but a meritless PIP is exactly the type of thing those laws are there to protect against.

The world can be awful (and legal protections admittedly uncertain), and it's natural to be cautious, but you never have to take awful people at face value or put their concerns above your own where your interests are at stake. That seems to be a major undercurrent throughout.
posted by LadyInWaiting at 10:21 AM on July 26, 2018 [23 favorites]


How awful. I wouldn't completely rule out the idea of looking for another job now despite your visible pregnancy. You have skills that are in demand. It's also possible that you could get a remote job and interview on Skype without revealing that you're pregnant. Personally, I would be tempted to look for another place to work more than investing energy and heartache and potentially legal effort into keeping this one.
posted by pinochiette at 10:37 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


to me it sounds like you’re experiencing at least some discrimination based on the protected status of being pregnant. i wasn’t pregnant, but i faced something similar, right down to the PiP with no achievable goals (delivered three weeks after my dad died, no less. classy!). my lawyer encouraged me to file a disability discrimination complaint with the EEOC, which had the effect of making it impossible for me to be fired without it looking like retaliation on the part of my employer. this made the PiP process completely stop while my employer scrambled to figure out what to do. my lawyer also wrote a brilliantly brutal letter to my employer spelling out how it was clear they were manufacturing pretext to fire me based on performance issues that essentially didn’t exist because they perceived me as disabled. it worked and i kept my job. i still hate my employer, but i have an income and health insurance for that pesky cancer that they tried to fire me for once they found out it’s not curable.

i feel for you and i wish you the best. this is the last thing a pregnant woman needs!!!
posted by hollisimo at 5:34 PM on July 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


This PIP is documented, and you have a copy of it right?
No? No written goals, no time lines, no expressed expectations?

Email HP and tell them you need that document, then take that email, the answer, and their document, or the absence of that document, plus your emails to a lawyer.

Yep, keep emailing for documentation. Write up the situation, send it, then walk over to their desk and tell 'em you've sent an email about blahblahblah, and could they get back to you at such and such time with a short written response.

Document what you said, what they said, hell, if they get snippy, tell em you just want a recording, because it will clarify what's going to be done. If they DON'T email you an answer, send another polite request asking what they intend to do. Cc your boss and let her know you spoke with so and so at their desk about such and such, and this is what was said.

If nothing else, make 'em work for it.
Good luck.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:52 PM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thank you, all. I think I needed something of a sanity check. Unfortunately, what I'm learning as I look at other positions is that all of my accidental project management has really lead to atrophy and crowding out of any other skills. Here's hoping the baby likes watching me go through lots of coding videos and tutorials as I get up to speed again; if we're lucky, I'll able to get him into a lucrative engineering roles by the time he's 5.

You're definitely all correct that the best I can do is gather two years' worth of documentation, contact a lawyer, and see if I can hold on to this role for several more months as I prepare to find another. I won't be able to begin communicating everything via email again as I've been explicitly asked to stop and doing so might result in my immediate dismissal, but I will email all details to myself so I have a record.

Again, thank you all so much for your kindness and responses. They make a big difference to me right now.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 3:26 PM on July 27, 2018


Response by poster: Just in case anyone sees this in the future, the important update here is that as of yesterday my company is being sued for discrimination of a pregnant employee who asked to work from home for a week during a high-risk pregnancy and was fired.

This seems to clarify why I was put on a neverending PIP with no parameters; in case I get fired and file a lawsuit, they can say they have documented stress issues and my being fired nothing to do with my pregnancy (even though it happened after I announced my pregnancy). They've talked me out of documenting because they knew this lawsuit was in the pipeline. It was a good "Ohhhhhhhh" moment around here.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 10:16 AM on October 4, 2018 [5 favorites]


« Older Volunteering for the hyper-mobile!   |   I used to be into cameras. Where should I start? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.