My working days began immediately after high school graduation in 1966. During my time at Rockville High, I made the high honor roll each year, was involved in various extracurricular activities, and believed all those years of hard work were about to pay off. Filled with enthusiasm, I was ready to make my contribution to society.
Employment at the time was easy to find, as the economy flourished. Travelers Insurance Company contacted me in response to a resume I submitted in answer to an ad they ran in the Hartford Courant. My interview was a rude awakening.
I sat with Mr. Johnson in the Personnel Department. Being confident that the suit I chose to wear was appropriate, and that I had the common sense and brain power to reach my highest potential, I felt prepared to meet the challenge head-on. My list of references and high school transcript in hand, I faced the interviewer with a confident smile. The first few questions asked wiped the smile right off my face, as they had nothing to do with my talents or abilities.
"Let's see," Mr. Johnson said as he clicked his pen and wrote my name on top of the form in front of him.
"Do you have a steady boyfriend?"
"Yes," I replied wondering why he asked.
"Are you planning on getting engaged to him?"
"Yes, we've discussed it." The interviewer frowned and shook his head. That made me nervous.
"Okay. When are you planning to get married?"
"Not for a while."
"What'd you mean by 'a while'? A year...two years?"
"Um, yeah...a year or two. Why are you asking?"
"We don't want to invest the time to train a woman who is going to get married, have kids, and quit."
I had no response. My confidence had begun to evaporate. The absurd interview was an eye opener.
"Okay," Mr. Johnson handed me a folder. "These are a series of tests. You may take a seat in the cubicle over there. When you're done, just come back here."
The tests involved math, language usage, and writing abilities. I was also required to write an essay, the subject of which I don't remember. "This is a piece of cake," I thought, as I returned to Mr. Johnson's desk.
"That was quick," he said. "Are you sure you answered everything?"
I had to take a seat in the waiting area while the tests were being corrected. It was past lunch time when Mr. Johnson called me back into his office.
"This is impressive," he said. "I'm going to recommend employment and send you to Mr. Peters for the next step in the process. It would be best if you did not let on that you might be getting engaged...better say you don't have a boyfriend. Understand?"
I sure was beginning to understand.
Travelers Insurance Company decided to "take a chance" and hire me. I served them well for eight years, until Jason was born. When I announced my pregnancy, they told me that automatic paid sick time would stop. That was a surprise because my attendance record was "outstanding." As a matter of fact, I had only used two sick days the previous year.
"I don't understand."
"Well, you see, if you have morning sickness you don't get paid for being absent. If you have the flu or something unrelated to your pregnancy, you must get a note from the doctor stating that he saw you in his office, and that your illness had nothing to do with being "in a family way."
"That's not fair." My blood pressure was rising.
"Okay. Wait 'til you hear this. Because you didn't put Mr. M on your insurance policy until the middle of May of last year, you may not be entitled to maternity benefits."
"What?! I've had this policy on myself for eight years!"
"Yes, but unless you named your husband on the policy also, you're not covered for the hospital bills due to pregnancy."
"That is bogus! First of all, no one told me that."
"Was in the fine print. So if you were already pregnant when you added your husband to this policy, you're not covered. The baby would have to come after...let's see, um...would have to come after February 13, 1974.
Jason was born prematurely on January 28, 1974, and Travelers Insurance covered the expenses. I did not get paid for the three sick days I took due to morning sickness.
As an added note, at the same time that I was not being paid for pregnancy-related sick days, Brad Soberman's wife was trying to conceive a baby. Because of special circumstances, the couple had to have intercourse at very specific times. His wife would take her temperature and call Brad at the office. He made no bones (excuse the pun) about why he was leaving. Sometimes the call would come early in the morning and he would be gone all day.
So, while I was getting zoomed with loss of sick pay, Brad Soberman received "sick pay" so he could go home and zoom his wife.
That's just the way it was.
Read more articles by Veronica Mello or search for articles on the same topic or others.