In 1997 I was a naive, but extremely efficient, 25-year-old assistant production editor at Family Circle magazine in New York City. I was surrounded by veterans of the giant publishing institution, but held my own.
In January 1998, I became pregnant with my second child. It was not a secret by any means to my boss, the managing editor. We had many staff members who were parents. (Someone was always pregnant.) So I never could have imagined how poorly they’d handle my pregnancy.
Our managing editor had children of her own and commuted from Long Island to the city. Between the two of us, we were in charge of making sure the magazine went to press on time. Together we worked out a flexible schedule so we could be both efficient employees and mothers to our children.
When my manager wasn’t at work, I held down the fort, often having to move pages along at a fast pace to make deadline — much to the chagrin of many older staffers, who maintained a “while the cat’s away, the mice will play” attitude. Still, I was quite respected in my role.
I told my manager I’d be taking maternity leave a few weeks before my due date because I was having some complications, and my midwife wanted me on bed rest. My manager said she understood.
Soon after, I was called into her office and told that my position was being eliminated because of “company restructuring.” When I asked for further clarification, her answers were vague. I knew something wasn’t right, and I definitely knew I wasn’t going to take it lying down. This is what a family-centric brand does? No. That wasn’t going to fly.
I discovered through the grapevine that there wasn’t any “restructuring” going on. My company simply did not want to honor my request for maternity leave because the timing was inconvenient. My friends advised me to immediately call an organization called 9 to 5 and ask for help.
I was assigned a case manager and told her my story.