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Beware refusing to rehire new mom; it could be sex discrimination under Ohio law

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in Firing,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employees who need time off for childbirth but who aren’t eligible for FMLA leave because they haven’t worked a sufficient number of hours in the previous 12 months aren’t entitled to additional protection under Ohio law. You can terminate the employee if your leave policies don’t provide another way to take time off.

But if the former employee is ready to return after childbirth, beware rejecting her if she tries to reapply for an open position.

That could violate Ohio’s anti-­discrimination law.

Recent case: Danielle Ware worked part time at Jenny Craig. She arranged to take six weeks off to give birth and then returned to work.

A few months later, Ware was pregnant again. This time, she was terminated the same day she went out on leave. She tried to return, but was informed that no jobs were open, even though her replacement had already quit.

Ware sued, alleging that by refusing to rehire her, Jenny Craig discriminated against her on account of her status as a new mother. She claimed that amounted to sex discrimination under Ohio state law.

The court said that the company was free to terminate Ware because she hadn’t been eligible for leave. However, by not rehiring her when she was ready for work, the company may have discriminated on the basis of gender. Ware will have a chance to persuade a jury that the real reason she wasn’t rehired was because she became pregnant. (Ware v. Jenny Craig, No. 1:11-CV-252, SD OH, 2011)

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