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Watch out! Firing employee who needs maternity leave may be sex discrimination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Maternity Leave Laws

It’s time to check your policy on maternity leave. An Ohio appeals court has ruled that it may be discrimination if you don’t provide maternity leave to employees who don’t qualify for your usual leave plan because they haven’t been on the job long enough.

Recent case: Tiffany McFee was a few weeks pregnant when she began work as a nurse at a long-term care facility. The nursing home allowed new mothers up to 12 weeks’ maternity leave after one year of service.

McFee got a note from her doctor saying she couldn’t work the few days before giving birth. The nursing home fired McFee a few days later, ostensibly because she hadn’t worked for the company long enough to qualify for maternity leave.

She sued, claiming Ohio law protected her from pregnancy and sex discrimination. She contended that included the right to leave to give birth.

The Court of Appeals of Ohio agreed and said no minimum service requirements are allowed for maternity leave. (Nursing Care Management of America v. Ohio Civil Rights Commission, No. 08-CA-0030, Court of Appeals of Ohio, 2009)

Final note: A male employee could have been fired under the company rule for taking time off. But the court didn’t care—it said Ohio law protects pregnant women from being fired for needing the leave. Otherwise, only women would have to choose between having a child or having a job.

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