Posts Tagged ‘Family Medical Leave Act’

As discussed before, a pregnant employee can face many different legal issues with her employer that impact many different laws including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and possibly the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act (GINA). Pregnant employees also need to know about their short term and long term disability insurance plans and how they interact with these laws. Most of these laws clearly cover natural pregnancy and adoption, but what about birth by surrogate?

That issues is now being addressed in a recently filed case. A US businesswoman is suing her employer after she was allegedly denied maternity leave following the birth of her twins through a surrogate mother.

Kara Krill, a clinical business manager at the Massachusetts-based company Cubist Pharmaceuticals, is claiming breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, discrimination on the basis of her disability and gender, and negligent misrepresentation by the company. She is seeking an injunction against Cubist, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Krill developed Asherman’s Syndrome – a condition which rendered her infertile – following the birth of her first child. When she and her husband decided to have a second child they used a surrogate. The resulting twins are biologically related to both Krill and her husband.

Following her first pregnancy, Krill was given 13 weeks of paid leave under the company’s maternity leave policy. However this time Krill says she was informed that she would only be entitled to five days of paid leave and up to $4,000 in expenses – as is offered to adoptive parents. Paternity leave under Cubist’s policy is also five paid days.

In her letter of complaint to Cubist, Krill stated: ‘But for my physical disability, I would be receiving the paid maternity leave offered by Cubist. Accommodating my disability would not require [Cubist] to provide me with any more benefit than other mothers’. Furthermore, she complained of discrimination and verbal abuse by her supervisor in the workplace due to her disability and surrogacy arrangement.

What do you think about Krill’s situation?

If you or someone you know is pregnant, and are not sure how to navigate the maze of legal issues that face you, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.

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Under Federal law, a woman can not be discriminated against or terminated based upon her being pregnant. Typically, there are also state laws, such as in Florida the Florida Civil Rights Act, that mirror the Federal laws. However, agricultural giant Olam International has not been following the law which has resulted in them being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

A woman named Jennifer Heintz claims she was offered a job as an executive assistant to two presidents with Olam. She took the job, but three days later, she was told the company was holding off on filling the position. Four days after that, Olam hired another person to fill the position. Heitz contends that the job offer to her was withdrawn based upon her being pregnant. Apparently, the EEOC agreed since the EEOC, in most cases, does not bring suit on behalf of an empoyee.

A lawyer for the EEOC stated, about pregnancy discrimination:

“It remains a serious problem — women not getting jobs, women being forced out of jobs, essentially being fired, and in this case, hired and fired immediately after they learned of the pregnancy.”

And the problem seems to be getting worse. In the five years from 1997 to 2001, the EEOC received 20809 pregnancy discrimination complaints. In the last five years, they received 29088, a 40% increase.

The EEOC further stated, “There is an added stigma because you become pregnant, therefore in the future and after even you have your child, that you will not be a productive worker,” she said. “That’s simply not true.”

If you believe you have suffered termination or discrimination due to your pregnancy, or have been denied Family Medical Leave, feel free to contact Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.

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We have blogged in the past about the Family Medical Leave Act which allows you to take up to twelve weeks off, of unpaid leave, to address a family pregnancy, adoption, illness or death. Upon returning to work, your employer is required to make sure your job or one substantially the same is still available. One problem, though, is that the Federal law only covers employers with at least 50 employees. This can be problematic for many employees of smaller companies with no comparable state law protections, case in point, Claudia Rendon of Philadelphia.

Claudia Rendon, 41, of Philadelphia, said her employer, Aviation Institute of Maintenance, fired her after she took time off to donate a kidney to her son.

Rendon, who worked for a year and a half in the school’s admissions office, said she notified the school that she planned to take leave on July 19 to undergo kidney transplant surgery on July 21 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on behalf of her 22-year-old son, Alex, whose kidney failed last January. After extensive testing in early July, Rendon was found to be a match.

Kidney transplant surgery normally requires at least six to eight weeks of recovery time, and Rendon said the Aviation Institute agreed to give Rendon unpaid leave until Sept. 1. Rendon told ABCNews.com that on her last day of work before the surgery, her manager promised Rendon she would have her job upon her return, but one hour later, asked her to sign a letter acknowledging that her job was not secured.

“They said, ‘If you don’t sign this letter, you are abandoning your job and quitting,’” Rendon told ABCNews.com. “I said, ‘I am not abandoning my job. I am saving my son’s life.’”

The fact that the FMLA does not cover Ms. Rendon does not necessarily mean she is out of luck, there is also a possibility that she can bring claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act or relevant disability insurance policies.

If you find yourself wrongfully terminated, speak to an employment lawyer to learn your legal rights. Feel free to call Scott M. Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.

In the interim, everyone should send hate mail to the wonderful people at Aviation Institute of Maintenance in Philadelphia.

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I have previously blogged that alcoholism is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act in many circumstances. Old Dominion Freight Line has now found that out based upon an EEOC lawsuit filed against it.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit this week arguing that Old Dominion Freight Line discriminated against Charles Grams by stripping him of his position and offering him a demotion even if he completed a substance abuse counseling program.

The EEOC says alcoholism is a recognized disability under the ADA and that the company violated the law with its policy that bans any driver who admits alcohol abuse from driving again. The EEOC wants the company to reinstate Grams and another affected driver to their previous positions and provide them with back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and compensation for lost benefits. The EEOC is also seeking to block the company’s alcohol-related policy.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Grams, who had been with Old Dominion for five years without incident, informed the company in June 2009 that he believed he had an alcohol problem. The company suspended him from his driving position, which paid him nearly $22 per hour, including benefits. In compliance with U.S. Transportation Department regulations, Grams met with a substance abuse professional who notified the company that Grams would participate in an outpatient treatment program and could return to work. But Old Dominion told Grams that he wouldn’t be allowed to drive again for the company and instead offered him a part-time position as a dock worker as soon as it became available. The position paid $12 per hour without benefits, the lawsuit alleges.

The EEOC contends that the company’s actions deprived Grams and other affected drivers of “equal employment opportunities and otherwise adversely affect their status as employees, in violation of the ADA.”
“Grams is a qualified individual with a disability under ADA … who can perform the essential functions of a driving position,” the suit says, adding that Grams and other employees wouldn’t need treatment to perform non-driving duties.

If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination in the workplace or had your job terminated based upon a disability, including alcoholism or substance abuse, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation about your legal rights.

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Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate was told just one word, “Plastics.” However, plastics did not appear to be a good business decision for several employees of plastic company Promens USA.

Promens USA Inc. has agreed to pay $225,000 to four women to settle a sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the EEOC has announced.

The women worked at the former Bonar Plastics rotational molding plant in West Chicago, Ill., that was acquired by Promens hf, based in Kópavogur, Iceland, in 2005.

EEOC said the violations occurred during the five years that Promens owned the factory.

The women, who were employed in the finishing department in West Chicago, filed discrimination charges with EEOC in 2007, which sued Promens on their behalf last fall.

The women alleged that a Promens supervisor “repeatedly propositioned temporary female workers,” EEOC said in a news release announcing the settlement. When the women rejected the supervisor’s advances, he fired them.

“This pattern of quid pro quo harassment continued until Promens USA fired this supervisor in July 2010 after yet another woman complained of sexual harassment,” EEOC said.

When EEOC investigated, the agency also found that Promens USA excluded women from jobs in the rotomolding department, which paid more than the finishing department.

The EEOC stated that “Employers should take notice that women cannot be excluded from a class of jobs based on stereotypes about their physical strength of assumed lack of interest. The EEOC uncovered evidence that Promens systematically excluded women from higher-paid positions as machine operators,” Hendrickson said. “Federal law plainly forbids work force segregation on the basis of sex.”

If you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, speak to your human resources department. If your concerns are not addressed, go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or an attorney that handles employment law cases.

If you have been subjected to sexual harassment or believe you have suffered discrimination in the workplace, call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a consultation.

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A recent jury verdict against Xerox for almost $800,000 shows the repercussions an employer, such as Xerox, may suffer for retaliating against an employee who complains of discrimination in the workplace. Remember that most state and federal laws prohibit not only the discrimination itself, but also retaliation against any complaints of discrimination.

Hope Bailey-Rhodeman, an African-American female, claimed she had suffered retaliation when she had made an internal complaint of race and gender discrimination. Since she filed the claim, she was demoted to a sales position, but at the time of her complaint, she was a sales manager for Xerox and had a successful career spanning nearly 20 years. She had been promoted to sales manager, leading a team of 10 sales representatives who specialized in selling equipment and services to customer in state and local government.

Bailey-Rhodeman was consistently the highest ranked sales manager in her section, and was frequently one of the most highly ranked sales managers for the country. But all this changed in the summer of 2006, when Bailey-Rhodeman made an internal complaint to Xerox Human Resources, complaining that other managers were bullying her because she was an African-American female.

Her immediate supervisor learned of the complaint, and told Bailey-Rhodeman that he was angry at her for making him look bad, telling her “now you did it.” He then launched a retaliatory investigation of Bailey-Rhodeman. Without being interviewed, or even being told the specifics of the accusations against her, Bailey-Rhodeman was suspended, being accused of committing an unspecified “policy violation.” Three weeks later she was told she was being fired, but Xerox offered to pay her 12 weeks severance, if she would agree to quit. She refused, and threatened to sue the company.

In response, Bailey-Rhodeman was told that she was being removed from her sales manager job, but could accept instead a reassignment to a sales position where she would be stripped of all supervisory responsibilities. Otherwise, she would be fired. The reassignment was a demotion, which would result in a significant loss in pay. Nonetheless, without any job prospects, Bailey-Rhodeman took the reassignment, but continued to challenge the demotion.

After being demoted to the sales position, Bailey-Rhodeman lost approximately $100,000 per year in sales commissions. Her territory was split between two white males. At trial, Bailey-Rhodeman challenged her demotion as being in retaliation for her complaints of discrimination. The jury found in Bailey-Rhodeman’s favor on her retaliation claim, and awarded Bailey-Rhodeman $488,088 in lost past income, and $316,126 in lost future income.

Should you believe you have been the subject of discrimination in the workplace or retaliation, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss available legal options to you.

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In Tayag v. Lahey Clinic Hospital, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that an employee’s seven-week leave of absence to accompany her husband on a “spiritual healing trip” did not constitute medical care within the meaning of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

In June 2006, employee requested a seven-week leave to assist her husband while he traveled to the Philippines on a “spiritual healing trip.” For this longer leave of absence, Lahey required Tayag to provide a note from her husband’s primary care physician detailing the need for Tayag to accompany him on the trip. Rather than submitting the requested documentation from her husband’s physician, however, Tayag produced a note from her own doctor, which stated that Tayag should receive time off to accompany her husband to the Philippines.

On August 8, 2006, after the Tayags had already left for their trip, Mr. Tayag’s cardiologist submitted a certification form to Lahey indicating that, in fact, Tayag did not need to accompany her husband on the trip. Lahey attempted to contact Tayag to inform her that her leave was not approved, but Tayag did not respond. On August 18, 2006, Lahey terminated Tayag’s employment.

While in the Philippines, Mr. Tayag did not receive any conventional medical treatment. Instead, the Tayags attended Mass, prayed, and spoke with a priest and other pilgrims at the Pilgrimage of Healing Ministry at St. Bartholomew’s Parish. Tayag and her husband also spent time visiting other churches, and seeing family and friends. Tayag claimed that she assisted her husband throughout the trip.

In August 2008, Tayag sued Lahey in District Court, alleging that Lahey terminated her employment in violation of the FMLA. The Court resolved the case in Lahey’s favor, finding that Tayag’s trip was not “protected” under the FMLA because it was effectively a vacation. Tayag appealed to the First Circuit, which reaffirmed that decision, finding that the FMLA does not protect the type of “healing” trip taken by the Tayags.

In deciding this issue, the First Circuit looked to the express language of the statute and found that the concept of “medical care” did not encompass such a trip. The Court then examined the law’s treatment of faith healing, which considers Christian Science practitioners to be healthcare providers to the extent that they are “others capable of providing healthcare services” within the meaning of the regulation. Although Tayag argued that the faith-healing exception is unconstitutional because it distinguishes between different religions, the First Circuit found her briefing on this issue to be so cursory that it considered the argument waived. Accordingly, the Court found that the faith-healing exception did not apply to Tayag’s claim and that the FMLA did not otherwise cover “healing pilgrimages.” Moreover, the First Circuit found that Tayag’s failure to provide adequate certification for her FMLA leave was independently sufficient to affirm the District Court’s decision to award summary judgment in the employer’s favor.

If you require legal assistance with your legal rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, feel free to contact Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.

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The way that some McDonalds employees in West Virginia were being treated makes me want to grimace (and I’m not referring to the big purple guy).

Three former employees are suing McDonald’s after they claim it violated the Fair Labor Standards Act for failing to pay minimum wage to employees.

Richard Estes, Gary M. Martin Sr. and Jeremy Thompson were employed at McDonald’s, according to a complaint filed Feb. 24 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Estes was employed from Aug. 1, 2006, until Nov. 1, 2008; Martin was employed from Dec. 1, 2008, until March 18, 2010; and Thompson was employed from June 1, 2009, until Dec. 14, 2009, according to the suit.

The former employees claim McDonald’s knew or should have known that its employees were illegally not paid minimum wage. They also claim they frequently worked more than 40 hours per week, but were never paid wages for hours actually worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

The defendant made several wage and hour violations, including telling the manager that employees were not to be paid for more than a set number of hours each week; for taking employees “off the clock,” when that set number of hours were met; requiring employees to work off the clock for up to or more than 40 hours per week; and requiring employees to work off the clock and not paying overtime, according to the suit.

If your employer is making your work off the clock, not paying you the minimum wage and not paying your for hours of over 40 hours per week, you may be owed additional wages and overtime. Feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.

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CHECK OUT THIS POWERPOINT WITH ALL OF THE BASIC AND NOT SO BASIC INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (FMLA).

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Many of you man know that if you your employer has at least 50 employees and you have been a full time employee of the employer for 12 months that you may be entitled to Family Medical Leave Act leave in the event of your serious health condition or that of one of your relatives. A new Federal Court opinion has indicated that an employee may not only take that FMLA leave, but should not be pestered about when they will return to work.

A U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas opinion dismissed Howard Memorial Hospital’s motion for summary judgment and concluded that a jury should be presented with the Family and Medical Leave Act interference claim made by a hospital employee who said she felt pressured to return to work during her medical leave.

In the case, Regina Terwilliger, a former Howard Memorial Hospital housekeeper, claims that her supervisor contacted her on a weekly basis to ask when she would return to work after undergoing back surgery. One pivotal phone conversation revolved around Terwilliger’s work status, with the housekeeper asking if she was at risk of losing her job while she was at home recovering. During that conversation, Terwilliger’s supervisor responded to her questions by saying that she should return to work “as soon as possible.” Terwilliger decided to cut her medical leave short and returned to work a week early. A few weeks after returning to work, the hospital fired Terwilliger, alleging she stole from another hospital employee. Terwilliger says she was fired for taking FMLA leave and asserts that the hospital deprived her of the act’s full benefits by pressuring her to return to work early.

“Interference includes discouraging an employee from using FMLA leave,” the district court wrote.

If you have questions about your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA, call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm.

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