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Court Rules Mom Can Be Fired for Maternity Leave

A Massachusetts mom thought she had her ducks in a row with a verbal agreement from her employer to take 11 weeks of maternity leave.  But when Sandy Stephens, the housekeeper for a president of a small Quincy telecommunications firm called Global Naps Inc. phoned her supervisor in anticipation of returning to work, she was shocked to learn she’d been fired.

So she went to court.  A Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination guideline says that employers should give employees written notification if their jobs are not protected after eight weeks — the amount of unpaid leave that Massachusetts guarantees a new mother — but since the guideline is not legally binding, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Stephens had no case.

But should she?

In many states, new mothers get just six weeks unpaid leave.  Employees of companies with more than 50 employees qualify for 12 weeks of unpaid leave — if they can afford it.  In Massachusetts, the law gives women eight weeks, but they can appeal for more from their employer.  In this case, MCAD argued that was unfair.  Employers could promise new parents — MCAD also wants their guidelines to apply to dads — more than eight weeks, then give the job away anyway.

Interestingly, Stephens was awarded $1 million in 2004 for exactly this reason.  But companies say that MCAD’s guidelines are forcing them into new maternity leave procedures that aren’t technically mandated by law — but end up being protected by litigation.

Watch the video below, then tell us what you think.

Photo: krzyboy2o, Flickr

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