Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Employment, and Disability Leave

Talking with employers about pregnancy and hyperemesis gravidarum can be hard. So many people just don’t understand that what we have isn’t morning sickness. Knowing that I will likely have to go out on disability, I decided to start working with HR early.

cubicles office disability leave

Let me start by saying that I work for a pretty big company.  This means that all the employment laws, such as FMLA and and CA labor laws (which are extensive) apply to me.  My company also takes health and safety very, very seriously, so it’s primed to be willing to work with me on this.  Once again, I find myself on the lucky side of the coin.

I started by speaking to my mentor, who happens to be the HR lead for the Americas for the division of the company in which I work.  If that sounds important, it is.  She is very well-suited to making sure I receive the correct information in this regard.

When I spoke to her, I printed out some info from the helpher.org about what HG is, and what the impact can be.  I will get to why that may have not been a great idea later.  She was pretty decent about it when I spoke to her.  She made it really clear, though, that I didn’t have to tell the what was going on.  All I had to do was say, “I may need to go out on disability.”  No need to give reasons.  She explained the CA disability is really complicated and that she would do some digging for me to make sure I have a clear picture of how it works and how my pay would look.

That was on a Friday.

Monday, we met and she gave me a whole packet here.  It was full of complicated HR stuff that I really am just too lazy to deal with here, but the bottom line is, my company gives 26 weeks short term disability, then you switch over to long-term disability.  During the duration of the short term disability, I would take FMLA for 12 weeks, supplemented by California disability insurance + the difference in pay for full pay for 12 weeks.  The full pay would continue, as I understand it, up to 17 weeks.  Then the other California disability program kicks in for 55% of the pay for an additional 12 weeks, which would carry me into my company’s long term disability program.

Realistically, I hope to not need any of that.  But if I need it, it’s there.  It’s complicated but it’s there.  She also assured me that I would still have a job when I returned.  I was ready to push on this.  A co-worker was out for bone marrow transplants for almost a year, so in my mind the precedent has been set.  Thankfully, no pushing was necessary.

The reason I’m concerned about giving her those printouts, is she referenced them a couple of times when talking.  She mentioned the 5% weight loss a few times.  What I should have said was that we don’t plan to wait for the HG checklist to happen before putting me out of work.  The idea is to keep that from happening and keep the HG from getting too severe.  If I’ve already been sick enough to lose that much weight, I’ve been too sick to be at work, you know?  I don’t think this will be an issue, it’s just something that is sticking in my mind.

At any rate, she told me that if I wanted to tell my boss now, it would be very helpful to the company, but I didn’t have to if I didn’t want to.  I would be well within my rights to tell her the day I go out, “I have to go out on disability.  Bye.”  All the other stuff, like ensuring coverage is not my problem to worry about.

I’m a nice person, though.  I went ahead and talked to my boss.  I kept it simple.  I let her know that I am pregnant, and I do have a history of this disease, so I might have to go out on disability in the next few weeks.  Regardless, I let her know, she would see me having more doctor’s appointments, and I would keep her updated on days I expect to miss time as early as possible.

She was very understanding.  She said, if I feel bad, don’t come in.  They’ll cover for me.  Don’t stress about doctor’s appointments.  As long as she gets some kind of heads up, it’s just fine.  She also said that if I needed to lay down there are some empty offices upstairs with couches in them, and it would be fine to go rest for a bit up there.

Overall the conversation went very well.  I’m so lucky to have a company who takes health and safety so seriously.


Illness update:  So far, so good.  I start feeling a little questionable right around unisom/b6 time, but other than that, I’m just continuing to coast along and hope for the best.  I’m going to feel a whole lot happier when I see that little heartbeat on Friday morning!


2 thoughts on “Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Employment, and Disability Leave

  1. Just found your blog through Post-a-Week & thought it was a coincidence that I just posted a blog entry about interviewing as a mom on my blog Mom, JD (momjd.wordpress.com). Sounds like you’re with a good employer! Good luck & I hope to keep reading!


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