Many employees believe that theand its state counterpart, the Minnesota Parental Leave Act (MPLA), absolutely prevent an employer from terminating someone who asks for or takes parental leave. That’s not the case.
As long as an employer can show that it would have terminated the employee for reasons unrelated to a request for parental leave, courts won’t interfere.
Unrelated reasons include reductions in force and termination for disciplinary problems and. Document the reasons and be prepared to show that any other employee in the same position would also have been terminated.
Recent case: Matthew Halleck worked on a year-to-year contract in customer service. He had several supervisors over the two years he worked for the company, each of whom received a string of complaints from co-workers and others about Halleck.
He was warned that his disruptive behavior had to stop and was placed on a performance improvement plan.
Meanwhile, Halleck announced that his wife was pregnant and would give birth shortly after his latest contract was scheduled to end. He requested FMLA and MPLA time off, beginning with the day she was expected to give birth.
However, because of Halleck’s, his employer didn’t renew his contract.
He sued, alleging he had really been terminated for requesting and scheduling parental leave.
The court rejected Halleck’s claim, concluding he had not shown that the employer’s legitimate business reasons for firing him—poor performance—was just a pretext for parental leave discrimination. (Halleck v. MMSI, No. A11-256, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2011)
Advice: Remind supervisors to handle all parental leave requests carefully. The only appropriate response to a pregnancy announcement is a hearty “Congratulations!” Instruct them to refer any leave questions to HR.
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- Update job descriptions regularly to include new duties & essential functions
- Know the FMLA, ADA rules when employee asks for time off to care for disabled relative
- For FMLA purposes, who's a 'key employee'?
- Does FMLA require leave to care for grandchildren?
- Handle employee background checks correctly to lessen liability