Wrongfully Terminated For Taking Maternity Leave

What is Considered Wrongful Termination?

Being wrongfully terminated from your job may not be quite as clear cut as you think. This is because most employment is “at will.”

This means that an employer can typically fire an employee for any reason or even give no reason. However, as far as employers are concerned, it is not necessarily as simple as that. There are exceptions when an employee is fired and when the termination fits an exception then it is classed as wrongful termination.

Federal law prohibits employers who employ more than 15 employees from discriminating against them including terminating workers based on color, race national origin, pregnancy, gender, religion, disability, age (40 and older) and genetic information.

Many terminated employees claim the act took place based on illegal discrimination and/or harassment. There are others who were wrongfully terminated based on the fact they reported acts of discrimination in the workplace, harassment and safety violations.

Employers are not permitted to terminate an employee for complaining about being harassed or discriminated against or complaints suggesting the employer is flaunting wage and hour laws or violating health and safety regulations.

There are other laws in force that protect employees from being terminated in relation to the reporting of illegal activities that have nothing to do with workers’ rights like discovering the company is filing a false tax return form or shareholder fraud is present within the business.

Is Pregnancy Covered Under the FMLA?

An employee’s eligibility to use FMLA leave throughout pregnancy or following a child’s birth is permitted. The FMLA states that a mother may use 12 weeks of FMLA leave after the birth of a child, in the following situations:

  • for prenatal care;
  • to cover incapacity due to the pregnancy,
  • to cover any serious health condition after the child’s birth.

A father may also use FMLA leave for a child’s birth and to look after his spouse who has become incapacitated because of the pregnancy or child birth.

The FMLA guarantees to an employee whether male or female and who has been working for a company with 50 plus employees for at least 12 months 12 weeks of unpaid and job-protected leave to enable the employee to recover from a medical condition that is serious but includes pregnancy or to look after newly born baby, a child newly adopted, or a child with a serious illness and a parent or spouse.

According to the FMLA guidelines, an employee has the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year, with all health benefits being maintained throughout the leave.

The FMLA also provides a guarantee that when the leave comes to an end the employee will get back the same job another job which attracts the same pay, benefits and terms and conditions.

If the employer violates the FMLA requirements the employee may be able to file a complaint for an FMLA violation or a complaint for discrimination

What to Do If Fired For Taking Maternity Leave

If you have been fired by your employer because you are pregnant or because you asked for maternity leave you may be able to file a complaint about the violation of the FMLA and be entitled to any of the following:

  • back pay;
  • reinstatement of your job;
  • front pay;
  • compensatory damages for pain and suffering you have suffered due to your employer’s action;
  • punitive damages which punishes your employer for his/her action.

On top of the compensation your employer may be asked to pay the following:

  • court costs;
  • your attorneys' fees;
  • any expert witnesses’ fees.

Gather Evidence to Show Employer is in Violation

You must document any communications that has taken place between you and your employer, even if your employer hasn’t said directly that you were fired due to your pregnancy.

Any communication from your employer about your termination could be used as valuable evidence in court. You should also ask to see your performance reviews. You may have some work colleagues who can act as witnesses proving that your employer had no good reason to fire you.

Speak With an Employment Law Attorney

As soon as you think that you have enough evidence to prove your employer violated the FMLA provisions you should contact an employment lawyer. Your attorney will decide if your employer has violated the FMLA by firing you and will file a complaint to seek compensation.


Additional Resources