Some new moms get the news while they are on maternity leave that they are being terminated from their jobs. This can cause extreme amounts of anxiety during what is supposed to be a chance for new mothers to adjust to their new routine with the new baby, recuperate from the pregnancy and childbirth, and bond with their baby.

A mother who gets fired while on maternity leave may assume that what their employer has done is illegal. Isn’t it illegal to discriminate against mothers because of their pregnancy or recent childbirth?

In some cases it is legal to fire a mother from her job while she is on maternity leave. It depends on why the termination occurred. An employee cannot be terminated because she is on maternity leave. If an employee is fired because she is on maternity leave, or because the employer is concerned about how the mother will perform at work once she returns from maternity leave, that is illegal pregnancy discrimination. However, if the employer decides to make a legitimate business decision, such as eliminating an entire department, and an employee happens to be on maternity leave at the time, that employee can be fired.

Employees may believe that they have some protection because of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires that employers return their employees to the same position and pay rate after taking maternity or family leave. There is also a counterpart to FMLA under California state law, called the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). However, FMLA does not guarantee that you will have a job after your maternity leave – if your job no longer exists, or your company goes out of business during your maternity leave, FMLA and CFRA will not help.

Most companies will choose not to fire or lay off employees during maternity leave because of the employment discrimination issues that could arise. If an employee has been with the company for a significant amount of time, the employee may have various protections under federal and state laws that could make a termination more difficult. In addition, even if the termination is legal, if a company chose to fire an employee during maternity leave, that decision could have seriously detrimental effects on company morale and public relations.

If you have been terminated while on maternity leave, or during your pregnancy, you should consult with an attorney. The facts of your case may show that the termination was completely unrelated to your pregnancy, and just happened to occur during a time while you were pregnant. On the other hand, employers sometimes do not want to deal with employees who have to take time off for doctors’ appointments and maternity leave, and they may worry about the employees’ productivity after maternity leave is over. A careful examination of the facts surrounding your employment, as well as the employer’s history of dealing with pregnant employees may help prove your case.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty and Seth I. Rosenberg believe employers must follow federal and state employment laws, which prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy. If you believe that you have been discriminated against in the workplace because of your pregnancy, call the Oakland pregnancy discrimination attorneys Micha Star Liberty and Seth I. Rosenberg at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. They work with clients throughout the Oakland-San Francisco area, including Hayward, Fairfield, Tracy, Berkeley, San Jose, Sacramento, and the surrounding areas. Call today to learn more or to schedule your free consultation.

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