San Antonio Employment Law Blog

Dallas woman says she was fired while on maternity leave

Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act covered employers are obligated to provide 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to their employees should they need the time off for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a sick spouse, child or parent, or due to an illness. Most often, we notice FMLA in action in Texas workplaces when women take maternity leave for the birth of a child.

Although this law is meant to protect employees, the FMLA rights of workers are frequently violated. Just earlier this week, for example, a Dallas woman filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas accusing her former employer of wrongfully terminating her while she was on maternity leave.

The woman had reportedly begun her job at a Texas office in 2008 when she was hired on as a project administrator. Several years later, in June 2011 she told her supervisors that she would need to take maternity leave the following winter or spring.

Although the FMLA request was approved, the woman has said she began to experience retaliation and a hostile work environment soon after making the request. By September of 2011, she was demoted, and just 10 days before she was scheduled to begin maternity leave, she was placed on a performance improvement plan.

While she was on leave, she was terminated. A report in the Southeast Texas Record does not state the company’s explanation for firing her or its explanation for demoting her in September of last year.

The new mother has accused the company of violating the FMLA and her civil rights.

FMLA law is quite complicated, but in general, all covered employers must offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth. And, in all cases, this leave comes with job-protection. This generally means that one cannot legally be fired while on leave. However, we have yet to hear the other side of this case.

Source: Southeast Texas Record, “Dallas mother files discrimination suit after losing job while on maternity leave,” Michelle Keahey, Sept. 21, 2012

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