Two Sixth Circuit decisions issued last week underscore the hazards associated with terminating an employee between the time that she announces her pregnancy and any time shortly after she returns from pregnancy leave. Fortunately, both decisions, which uphold lower court summary judgment decisions, also demonstrate that an employer can escape liability when it has valid reasons for the termination, even when the termination was made at a time that was temporally close to the pregnancy announcement or the pregnancy itself.
Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Upholds Summary Judgment for Employers in Two Cases Brought by Terminated Pregnant Employees

Last month, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia and Alabama) held that a pregnant employee, who provided several months notice to her employer of her intention to take leave upon the birth of her child, was protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") despite the fact that at the time she provided the notice, she was not eligible for FMLA. In short, the court held that the FMLA protected employees who make pre-eligibility requests for post-eligibility leave from both interference with the leave and from retaliation.

Appellant Kathryn Pereda ("Pereda") began working for Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc. on October 5, 2008. In June of 2009, Pereda advised Brookdale of her pregnancy and that she would be requesting FMLA leave around November 30, 2009, after the birth of her child.

Pereda alleges everything changed after she announced her pregnancy. First, she was no longer considered one of the top employees at Brookdale. Second, Brookdale began harassing her, causing stress and complications in her pregnancy. Third, Brookdale’s management placed her on a performance improvement plan with unattainable goals. Lastly, Pereda alleges that although she was eligible for sick and personal leave and was told she could use that time for doctor’s visits, management wrote her up for taking leave time to visit the doctor.

In August of 2009, Pereda took a few days off, and notified Brookdale management of her absence via email. When she returned to work she was written up for failure to obtain verbal authorization for her absence.

In September 2009, Pereda’s physician placed her on bed rest. Pereda left a phone message with the executive director, but did not receive a return call. Pereda was unable to reach someone at Brookdale until several days later, at which time she was fired.

Pereda filed a Complaint against Brookdale on May 11, 2010, asserting that "Brookdale interfered with her FMLA rights, insofar as Brookdale denied her benefits under the FMLA to which she was entitled, and terminated her for attempting to exercise those rights."

Continue Reading Notice of Intent to Take FMLA Leave May Just Be Enough

The Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals last week released an opinion in Nursing Care Mgmt. of Am., Inc. v. Ohio Civ. Rights Comm’n, that upheld the Ohio Civil Rights Commission’s determination that an employer unlawfully terminated an employee on the basis of pregnancy when the employer terminated the employee because she required pregnancy-related disability leave but had not met the minimum length of service requirements for maternity leave under the employer’s leave policy.
Continue Reading Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals Decision Requires That Employers Provide a Reasonable Period of Time for Unpaid Maternity Leave Regardless of Length of Service or Leave Policy