It's amazing what people will do to get out of work. I heard tale that there are laaaaaaaaaazy women out there who love having their cervix manipulated in order to have a catheter shoved through to their uterus so an embryo that was created out of an egg that they had surgically removed from their body can be transferred back. All just to get out of that 8 a.m. staff meeting. You know that kind of woman also is the type who looooooooooooooooves to waste time with things like having mammograms or colo-rectal exams. Slackers.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week on a federal appeals court ruling protecting women who need to miss work in order to pursue fertility treatments. The case involved a secretary who missed work during an IVF cycle that was ultimately unsuccessful and asked for additional time to try again.
Here's the thing: women are going to be the ones who miss work even when it's male factor infertility because pregnancy occurs inside the woman's body. Which means that if a male employee has azoospermia, he will not need massive amounts of time away from work (at the most, he will need to provide the sperm on the day of retrieval) though his fertile wife will need to take off from work in order to conceive with him. This is why infertility is not only a condition of the person, but also a condition of the couple (when a person has a partner) since both people will be affected by the others' infertility.
Of course, there has to be a fine balance. Personal life cannot trump productivity--they need to work in a give-and-take with one another. Work places cannot function if employees are taking off continuously, leaving work unfinished. Fertility treatments can interfere with travel and meetings as well as physical labour. But where is the give when medical issues or situational conditions necessitate the utilization of reproductive assistance?
The comments on the article tell the larger story of both people who have undergone IVF and are grateful for understanding bosses as well as the anonymous commentors who say, "I don’t get this. You’re making a choice, and you expect your co-workers to simply accept it because it leads to having a child?"
At the heart of this lawsuit is the fact that personal life always negatively affects work life. Therefore, those opposing this ruling such as the anonymous poster who commented on the Wall Street Journal article, "Why should anyone from your company give you slack? Because you are infertile. This and the lawsuit that brought up this topic are a joke. Your personal defects should not allow you to screw over a private business just because you want to have kids" would also probably agree that we should simply stop having children. C-sections take around six weeks to heal and there is simply too high a risk of c-sections when you factor in about 40% of pregnancies necessitate them. Therefore, we need to do away with children. Also, fights with spouses disrupt sleep and are too big a risk when you consider the divorce rate is about 50% in the United States. Therefore, no marriage.
Or, the heart inside the heart of this is that, as this commentor points out, the problem is simply in employing women:
I can tell you this is another reason to hire less women & limit their access to promotions. It is fine if you can actually handle your job & proceed through the treatments, the possible pregnancy & then the time off you will need to take care of your sick child & all childhood emergencies. But you have to look at this realistically at all the time involved & time when you will not be able to focus on work.Which is precisely why this court ruled to utilize the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and call out this inequality towards women. Because women should not be penalized in the workplace simply because the future of the world is directly tied to our uteruses. We can, of course, dismiss each individual woman as not important to the perpetuation of the system, but we cannot as a whole dismiss women and their necessity in bringing forth the next generation.
We've given women the right to employment but placed such heavy glass ceiling above her that she'll never be able to push through without laws in place protecting her.
The infertility blogosphere is all over the board on the decision whether or not to tell employers about treatments. Egg Drop Post had a post this week about whether or not to tell a new employer about an upcoming IVF procedure. She will need three days off total to recover from surgery and to rest after transfer. She writes:
Now I just started my new job on July 1. Should I tell my boss that I’m having a procedure done and that I’ll need to take some days off, even though I can’t predict when those will be? or should i just call in sick? I definitely don’t feel comfortable telling her that I want to get pregnant and that I am going to do in-vitro. What would you do?Egged On had a dilemma at work but came down firmly on the side of not telling: "I'm not opposed to anyone knowing about it, per se, but I really don't want to tell anyone else. If I tell someone, it's like an open invitation for them to give me their opinion. And I don't need that. But I do believe it's in my best interest for my bosses to not know about this."
Fussbucket returns directly to this ruling, and muses about the farther reaching reprecussions of this ruling: "I wonder whether this would have implications for health insurance coverage of these procedures. Does health insurance typically cover this now? I seem to remember about five years ago there was push back from the insurance companies over whether or not infertility was a medical condition."
I'm not even hoping for more mandated coverage. I'm just hoping that the backlash of this ruling isn't to stop employing women, especially the baby-hungry ones who are secretly checking Celebrity Baby Blog during the workday (um...ladies like me). To implement some sort of profiling system at the workplace to judge the ripeness of a woman's ovaries or her desire to adopt prior to offering her the position. Truly, I hope this ruling has simply raised that glass ceiling a bit so women can take a breath if they want to pursue family building rather than smashing it down on their head in simply a different but equal way.
What are your thoughts on this ruling or being honest in the workplace about medical conditions and your personal needs, especially as it pertains to family building through treatments or adoption (both which necessitate time off with little notice)?