There are plenty of amazing accomplishments in this country’s history that Americans should be proud of. However, when it comes to maternity leave, we are not known for our progressive policies.
In fact, we are widely known as one of last remaining developed nations in the entire world to not offer paid maternity leave by law. This backward situation is often the subject of satirical jokes and debates about why the United States is so behind in this area.
Any parent knows that taking care of a newborn is no vacation. Those companies that care about the well-being of employees understand that — and choose to offer paid maternity leave.
However, there are a few important laws on the books regarding unpaid time for mothers. Even companies that don’t offer paid leave must allow moms to take unpaid time off. They cannot fire or discriminate against women who are out on maternity leave.
However, one mom from New Jersey learned that her company had ignored this rule, firing her while she was recovering from childbirth.
This is not only against the rules; it’s highly unprofessional and heartless. And this mom wasn’t going to let them get away with it.
NJ.com reports that Ashley Ruiz-Lopez, now a mother of two, had worked as a receptionist at a contract bakery company in 2014.
She worked there for two years before she became pregnant with her second child and requested leave.
Ashley requested to go on maternity leave on January 29, 2016, according to NJ.com.
She did this the proper way and with the correct documents. When it came time for her to go on maternity leave, she even made a claim for temporary disability benefits with her employer.
Temporary disability is used as a stop-gap solution by lots of moms whose jobs don’t offer paid maternity leave.
Ashley went on maternity leave on January 29, 2016, and continued taking steps to make sure she was following maternity leave protocol.
This included a doctor’s note listing her due date and when she should be expected to return back to work.
She even updated her employer with a specific return date following her birth by C-section.
However, Ashley’s attempts to get in contact with her employer all went unanswered.
She informed investigators that she’d made several attempts to make sure her job was secure and that the paperwork was received, but she was repeatedly ignored.
Finally, Ashley was fired by the bakery in March and never given any chance to plead her case or, more importantly, let the bakery know that their behavior was illegal.
As a result, Ashley filed a lawsuit against the bakery with the Division of Civil Rights for violating her right to maternity leave and unjust termination.
The court found the bakery guilty of infringing on Ashley’s right to maternity leave, due to the fact that she provided more than enough notice.
Moreover, the bakery was found guilty of also violating the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by firing her while she was recovering from a surgery, her C-section.
They could have avoided this by communicating with Ashley about potential for the company to make accommodations for her temporary disability leave.
Ashley was awarded $60,000 in the lawsuit. Additionally, the bakery must pay the Division of Civil Rights $10,000 that will help go towards developing new family leave practices as well as antidiscrimination training for employees.
We hope that an important lesson was learned. Pregnant moms deserve job security as much as anyone else.
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