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Remind your managers: No comments on family planning

by on
in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Some comments simply aren’t appropriate in the workplace—especially when the person weighing in is a supervisor or manager. Most bosses understand they can’t use ethnic or racial slurs, but many don’t understand that the same common sense applies to discussing topics such as family planning.

What sorts of comments are off limits? Just about anything that could make an employee think a supervisor might count it against her if she used FMLA leave.

Recent case: When hospital employee Jing Ulit, who has several children, became pregnant again, her supervisor began making comments about her fertility. Ulit said the manager said she “had too many babies” and should have her “tubes tied.”

Ulit took FMLA leave and was terminated shortly after returning. She sued. A jury sided with Ulit and awarded her back pay.

The judge then used the supervisor’s comments to double the jury award. FMLA rules allow a judge to double the award unless the employer can show it innocently broke the law. (Ulit v. Advocate South Suburban Hospital, No. 08-CV-2698, ND IL, 2009)

Final note: Limit comments about an employee’s pregnancy to “Congratulations.” And warn supervisors to stay away from comments on child care or elder care topics, too.

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