Women, having it all?

Sharon - posted on 06/26/2010 ( 10 moms have responded )




Can women have it all? Can you expect an employer to give you special considerations because you are a woman? Because you're a mom?


Even in the enlightened, family-friendly world of 2010, you can still get fired for getting pregnant.

In Ohio, anyway.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week that companies can fire relatively new employees who take time off for pregnancy.

Justices ruled 5-1 that new employees risk getting fired when they take extended leaves for any reason. It's not discriminating against women to include pregnancy leaves, they decided.

The case came before the court because nurse Tiffany McFee was fired from her job in Pataskala, a town of 10,000 located 22 miles east of Columbus. The Pataskala Oaks Care Center fired her because she took pregnancy leave eight months after being hired. Nursing home policy requires employees to be on the job a year before taking an extended leave.

The Columbus Dispatch reports justices ruled that as long as company policies apply to everyone and don't make distinctions between extended leaves for pregnancy and other medical purposes, employers are within their rights to give pregnant women the boot.

New moms are not faring well with Ohio's high court.
Just last August, the Dispatch reports, justices ruled employers can fire lactating employees who take unauthorized work breaks to express their breast milk.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, tells the Dispatch both rulings punish working women for having children. (NARAL, formerly the National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League, is now no longer considered an official acronym)

"This is appalling," Copeland tells the newspaper. "We should be having policies in place that allow people to have children and not lose their jobs because they choose to have a child. This illustrates a major hole in Ohio law. There is no protection for women in this type of situation."

While many businesses are required to accommodate pregnant workers under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the federal law.

There's a good reason for that, Tom Tarpy, a Columbus lawyer who represents employers, tells the Dispatch. Extended leaves can cripple small businesses, he says.

"Whether or not a person's unexpected leave is due to pregnancy or a heart condition or a broken leg, those circumstances affect small businesses very differently when you have one-fifth of your work force out on leave," Tarpy tells the newspaper.

Justice Robert R. Cupp, writing for the majority, said the nursing home's policy was clear and objective.

"Pataskala Oaks' length-of-service requirements treat all employees the same," Cupp writes. "Every employee must reach 12 months of employment before becoming eligible for leave. In this sense, the policy is 'pregnancy-blind.' "

The sole dissenting opinion came from Justice Paul E. Pfeifer.

In his dissent, Pfeifer concluded that even if the leave policy was written to treat pregnancy the same as any other disabling condition, it still discriminates against women.

"Pursuant to the Pataskala Oaks employment policy, there was no maternity leave available to McFee," Pfeifer writes in his dissent. "Therefore, her termination constituted direct evidence of unlawful sex discrimination."


Becky - posted on 06/27/2010




All I have to say is that every time I read/hear about American policies regarding maternity and parental leave, I am very, very glad I am a Canadian.

[deleted account]

Well if it's the policy and equal for both men & women no matter the medical issue of extensive time off, then sorry, I side with the company. Is the company supposed to wait for the next 6-8 weeks with everyone else picking up the slack and complete her job duties? Sorry to sound harsh, but it's not discriminatory against ONLY pregnant women, the policy includes ALL people for ALL time off. She knew the policy when she was hired so I can't understand why she feels she is above and beyond the policy.

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Lindsay - posted on 06/27/2010




I have to agree with Sharon and Amie. Sure losing her job sucks and with having a baby, I'm sure she needs it. But the policy is not directed at maternity leave, it's based on an extended leave that anyone would take for any reason. She hasn't put in the time to earn it, plain and simple.

Sarah - posted on 06/27/2010




Here the UK the rule is : employed by the same employer continuously for at least 26 weeks into the 15th week before the week your baby is due (the qualifying week)

I don't see any problem with it to be honest.
You can't something for nothing I guess! lol

Amie - posted on 06/26/2010




I don't see the problem with this. I agree with Sharon C. If you're a new employee who hasn't built up the time to earn the leave, why should you get it? Regardless of the reason.

I know here we have to pass probationary periods before we're admitted full benefits (which include leaves) and have to work for a year before you're admitted vacation time. During that time (which can range anywhere from 3-6 months) the employer can fire you for any reason. Doesn't matter what it is. All they have to put is you didn't pass the probationary period.

Rosie - posted on 06/26/2010




oh i forgot to add how i feel, lol!! i think it's definitely not a good thing. i work part time, but i've worked at my place of business for 14 years. so after 14 years of service they can technically not guarantee me my position back, and i could be fired. horsepucky i say, horse puckey!!

Rosie - posted on 06/26/2010




this is how it is stated in FMLA for iowa as well, that we have to work there a year AND have 1,250 hours worked. the year i had lucas i did not work 1,250 hours but i was allowed my time off-unpaid of course (heaven forbid). i suppose they could've fired me if they wanted to and gotten away with it. i'm glad that i work for a company that values it's employees.

i'm pretty sure that this is the rule in every state, not just ohio.http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-le...

Jodi - posted on 06/26/2010




I come at this from both perspectives in a way, that of a woman who has worked in a family friendly small company, and one who is now owner (together with my husband) of a small company.

When I had my kids, paid parental leave never existed (it doesn't come in here until next year), but the right to 12 months unpaid parental leave existed for ALL parents, no matter who they worked for, providing they had been working for the employer for a minimum of 12 months. Women OR men could use this 12 months, as long as it was only 12 months between each parent. So for instance, I could take 6 months off, and then my partner could take six months off. When I had my son, I took 8 weeks off, and my son's father then took 5 months off, because I was the primary income earner in the household, so it made sense, when we were struggling financially.

I think this is a fantastic policy. From a small business perspective, I don't think it is crippling at all. After all, it was unpaid maternity leave. We had to give at least 10 weeks notice (I think it was 10 weeks) as to what we were going to do, and this gave the business time to find a temporary person to take over the position. We are permitted, here in Australia, to advertise a position as a 12 month temporary contract. It happens all the time. The only real cost to business is the training.

Should they have to give all pregnant women a go? No. I think the minimum of 12 months service should be fine. I have fired a pregnant woman before. She was a trainee, had only worked with us for about 4 months doing a 12 month traineeship, and she started taking a lot of time off. She had morning sickness, which is fair enough, I was prepared to support her through that. BUT she was only sick in the mornings and didn't bother to try and get to work in the afternoons when she was feeling well.

This went on for weeks and weeks. It was a small business, and I was picking up the slack in a big way, and at the time, I was pregnant myself. I needed to make a decision as to whether to hire someone else to help me, but I couldn't do it while I had a commitment to the other young lady. She was warned that her work was suffering and told that if she couldn't do the job we would have to let her go because I also couldn't continue to work 10-12 hour days in my condition either. In the end, we fired her for inability to perform her job. Believe me, I didn't feel good about it, but a small business can't carry that sort of weight without business suffering, which means everyone else in the business, who also had young families, also suffer.

I also don't believe small business should have to PAY for maternity leave. In Austrwalia, the government is bringin in paid parental leave, but it will be paid for by government. Although, from what I gather (and I haven't read the amended legislation yet), business still has to pay it up front, then claim it back, and business has to pay for the superannuation (retirement) during the time absent, and that won't be reimbursed.

Johnny - posted on 06/26/2010




Take off your shoes and get back in the kitchen!!!

I suppose we have the choice between policies that treat absolutely everyone completely equally and those that are in the best interests of our society. Here, it seems Ohio has chosen to put the needs of business ahead of the needs of families. And people wonder at the alarming rates of child poverty and parents on welfare.

I'm sure there will be lots of people saying that she should have planned better, she shouldn't have gotten pregnant if she knew the policy, etc. That may be true. Unfortunately now we have a child with an unemployed mother. I suspect the costs to our society from children living in poverty will be a lot greater than the costs of allowing maternity leave.

I'm probably biased though, living in Canada, we are all guaranteed one year of paid maternity leave (@ 55%) through our EI system provided we have worked 600 hours in the previous year (about 16 weeks full-time). Our jobs are guaranteed during this time and we continue to accrue seniority. Some large corporations, a few smaller businesses, and many governments also will top up your salary to 100% but you must guarantee that you will return to work for a minimum of 6 months after your leave.

I wonder if the care home would have fired a male employee who had to take time off before that 1 year mark because of a serious illness or death in the family?

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