Mad As Hell - Can You Get Fired Because of Menopause?

Patient Expert

I just read a newspaper article about a woman in the Midwest who says she was fired because of her menopausal symptoms, and if it's true, I am hopping mad.

Bad enough that we have to go through hot flashes, weight gain and mood swings, now we have to fear for our jobs, too? I know what it's like to lose your job because of age discrimination. Ladies and friends: This has got to stop

The woman in the Midwest said she was caught crying a few times. I don't know the details of this woman's story but I do know that in my career, I have been hurt, insulted, stepped on, walked over, and treated horribly by both men and women, and I have refused to cry in front of any of them. But I'm lucky that I can control my tear ducts, others may not be able to. Is that any reason to FIRE someone?

If a man were having some emotional issues at work, maybe a tendency to slam his office door, come in late a few times or bark at the receptionist once or twice, do you think HE would be fired? I don't think so. But an emotional woman? Well, no one knows how to deal with that so let's just fire her!

Like I said, I'm not sure of the circumstances of this particular case, and maybe she got out of line in the workplace, but her side of the story sure sounded like she was discriminated against because of menopause, which to me sounds like both AGE and SEX discrimination, both of which are ILLEGAL. I hope she has a good lawyer.

What can WE do to make sure our rights aren't trampled on? In truth, most companies can fire you for almost any reason. They can eliminate your position (it happened to me) then hire someone in a similar position a few months later. They can cut your hours so deeply that you can no longer afford to work there. In cases like this, there isn't much you can do legally. But if someone even hints that your job is on the line because of your menopausal symptoms, take very good notes and don't be afraid to call a lawyer.

In the meantime, I offer these suggestions to anyone going through menopause and trying to keep her career on track:

  1. Don't make a big deal of menopause publicly. Avoid personal conversations, even humorous ones, about hot flashes and mood swings and other symptoms at work, even with your female friends.
  2. If you're in a meeting and get a hot flash and feel like stripping, do it subtly. Take off your sweater and make no comment. If someone else comments about you having a "menopausal moment," smile but ignore the comment. Take a tall glass of ice water to meetings.
  3. Keep a small QUIET fan in a corner of your office or workspace and use it when needed, but don't say much about it. It isn't anyone's business.
  4. You know the trick of dressing in layers so it's easy to take off a long-sleeve shirt with a office-appropriate cotton short-sleeve shirt underneath. If it's cold where you live, wear a warm pair of socks and boots to work but keep a pair of pumps or some other shoes under your desk that you can wear without socks (when you get too warm).
  5. If you find yourself getting emotional about something, excuse yourself to the ladies room. Ditto if you are just so hot that you can't stay in a meeting. Everyone needs a bathroom break every once in awhile.
  6. Try VERY hard not to lash out at anyone. Count to 10, or wait an hour before you write that nasty email or stomp into someone's office with bad attitude. I hate to say it but just because we're women "of a certain age" we are expected to be moody, and even the slightest evidence of it will be cause for comments like, "Well, SHE must be going through the change." Consistent lashing out or angry outbursts could be cause for being put on notice or dismissal, so keep your anger to yourself. This doesn't mean you should allow others to walk all over you-just pick your battles, gather your evidence and present your case is a reasoned, calm and efficient manner. Do not babble; do not cry.
  7. Don't share your personal issues, troubles, feelings or even humorous thoughts with your boss. Your stage in life is not relevant to your relationship.

I hope this helps and please let me know if you have experienced this kind of discrimination and what you did about it. Many others on this site would like to know, too.