Discrimination is a persistent force, a fact made clear when even lawyers who supposedly should know the law, and thus know better than to commit acts of discrimination, commit such acts and discredit their firm’s carefully crafted brand.
A recent London law suit filed against American based firm, McDermott, Will & Emery (MWE), proves that even the most renowned firms can commit unlawful discriminatory acts. Cheng Tan, a specialist working in MWE’s London headquarters, was set to begin her maternity leave in May of 2011. When Ms. Tan took leave, she announced that she would return to work after six months was was told by her supervisors that she would be welcomed back upon her return. However, in an unfortunate turn of events, her pregnancy was laden with complications, including two serious post-birth surgeries. As a result, Ms. Tan was forced to extend her leave of absence to recover.
When Ms. Tan requested a November 2011 meeting with her supervisors to discuss her return to work, she was shocked and dismayed to find that she was at risk of being released because her position had been mysteriously eliminated. Her supervisors even asked her to return her maternity pay and offered to give her full layoff pay if she agreed not to sue MWE. Ms. Tan was officially terminated in November 2012 and is now bringing a host of claims against MWE including pregnancy and maternity discrimination, unfair dismissal, and indirect age discrimination.
The United Kingdom, where Ms. Tan was employed, has maternity leave programs that are much more advanced than those currently implemented in the U.S. under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). A new mother in the UK can take up to a fifty-two (52) week job-protected pregnancy-related leave of absence after giving birth and is entitled to receive 90% of her salary for up to thirty-nine (39) weeks.
Under the FMLA in the U.S., an employer must allow new mothers, caretakers, and adoptive parents to take a twelve week job-protected leave of absence. However, this leave of absence is unpaid and not every employee is eligible for FMLA benefits.
If you are a new mother who has been unlawfully prevented from taking an FMLA eligible leave or you have been terminated or retaliated against for taking a pregnancy related leave, contact an attorney with an in depth knowledge of your rights under the FMLA.