Woman Who Was Fired While on Maternity Leave Awarded $150K
Company would not take her calls, then fired her for job abandonment
Many women worry that pregnancy or childbirth could have a negative impact
on their careers.
Unfortunately, there is ample reason for their concerns. Even in 2017,
there are still employers who unlawfully fire, demote, or otherwise penalize
women for being pregnant or having children.
Let’s take a look at a recent case and then discuss what all working
women should know about their rights concerning maternity leave.
Wouldn’t pick up the phone
After working at North Jersey Dermatology for nearly four years, a worker
announced her pregnancy.
Due to complications with the birth of her child, the woman required several
weeks of disability leave in addition to her maternity leave. The woman
claims that she attempted to contact the company to discuss her return
to work several weeks before her leave was over.
However, she was unable to get anyone on the phone.
Two weeks after her first call, the company’s chief operating officer
allegedly called the woman to inform her that she’d been terminated
for job abandonment.
The woman sued the company for wrongful termination.
Rather than have to defend its alleged actions in court, the company agreed
to settle the case. The woman will receive $150,000.
(Read more about this case here.)
Protection from termination
Women who are eligible to take maternity leave through the Family and Medical
Leave Act (FMLA) generally may not be fired for taking leave. They are
also protected from being terminated immediately upon their return to
work, or in close proximity of their return to work.
Some women who experience medical complications may also be entitled to
extended leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However,
it’s important to keep in mind that ADA coverage is determined on
a case-by-case basis.
Unfortunately, many employers attempt to exploit a loophole in the law
to terminate women during maternity leave.
By stating that a termination was part of a reduction-in-force, or related
to another matter other than pregnancy, companies can attempt to cover
the tracks of unlawful discrimination or retaliation.
However, the good news is that courts often insist on a thorough examination
of the timeline and events that precipitate a woman being fired during
her maternity leave.
For example, courts may find it suspicious if a woman is fired for supposed
misconduct over minor infractions, when others have not been reprimanded
for the same offenses. On the other hand, if a woman’s entire department
is laid off while she’s on maternity leave, the termination may
not have been unlawful.
Call us for a consultation now
If you believe that you’ve been subjected to unlawful treatment at
work due to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, you should speak
to an attorney to find out more about your rights.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.