Generally, all claims arising out of the same set of facts must be brought in one lawsuit. However, in limited circumstances, it’s possible for an employee to file separate lawsuits against her employer—and her supervisor!
Recent case: Valerie worked as a legal secretary. When she became pregnant, she had difficulty scheduling prenatal appointments under the law firm’s leave policy. She also claimed she heard negative comments about her pregnancy.
When she gave birth and returned, she had to express milk on her lunch breaks in what she claimed was a dusty closet. Then she developed postpartum psychological problems and asked that the information remain confidential. While going through her boss’s emails (a part of her job) she noticed that he had forwarded her confidential information to his wife, who in turn had replied with comments to the effect that Valerie was malingering.
Valerie sued the boss and his wife for privacy violations. That case was eventually dismissed.
She then sued the firm, alleging sex discrimination. The firm argued that the earlier case, which had been dismissed, blocked the second lawsuit. The court disagreed.
It concluded that the claims were separate and could be brought in two lawsuits. (Medcalf v. Thompson Hine, LLP, No. 13-Civ-7609, SD NY, 2015)
Final note: This is a case to watch. Remember that since 2010, employers are required to provide breast milk expression breaks for new mothers. The room used for the breaks must be private and cannot be open to other employees during milk expression. In addition, the breaks are to be provided as often as needed and can’t be restricted to lunch or other regular break periods.
For more information, see the DOL FAQ.
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